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TaylorPanczak

TaylorPanczak

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March 1, 2019

Project Update and Technological Hurdles

March 1, 2019 | By | No Comments

For this month’s blog post, I am going to provide a quick update on my project. I have updated the artifact pages and created markers for the highland sites on my map. Also the front-end framework for loading my 3D models onto an HTML page is fully functional which is by far one of the greatest accomplishments of my life. The next steps are adding descriptions and text to the designated areas throughout my web page. Deciding what to write is going to be difficult because I need to find a balance between making my text approachable for a general audience while being applicable for academics. If I add to much lithics jargon, I will possibly lose anyone who is not a specialist. If I do the complete opposite, my site will not be useful for anyone in academia.

The next part of this blog will discuss technological hurdles in an age of open information. Recently I have had to teach myself the basics of Blender to create animations for my website. While there are tutorials online and on YouTube I found most of them hard to follow. This was due mostly my lack of experience using Blender and the tutorials themselves were hard to follow. I experienced the same problem when I was attempting to get Three.js to function properly for my artifact pages. Three.js is a front-end framework that displays 3D models on websites and allows users to manipulate the rendered objects. For some reason, one which I finally figured out after an unspeakable amount of time, the models refused to appear in the center of the screen and had an extremely wide orbit around an arbitrary center (I used orbit controls for the manipulation on my artifact pages). My initial thought was that maybe my point of origin (PO) was incorrect for my models so I googled the problem and found conflicting information. I moved on and began a long search to why Three.js refused to cooperate. 300+ commits to GitHub later, I realize that my PO was the problem so I download blender and set the origin correctly. The long journey finally ended and I had a functioning framework.

What I learned from this experience is that I should trust myself more and that the easiest explanation is usually the best. Occam’s Razor strikes again.

TaylorPanczak

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February 11, 2019

Peruvian Origins Informatics Project

February 11, 2019 | By | No Comments

Introducing my project for the 2018/2019 CHI fellowship: Peruvian Origins Informatics Project. With this project I want to build an interactive, multi-component website that will be accessible to non-academics and will be valuable to future researchers. I want to make this website as accessible as possible by having multiple language options. The site will initially be launched in English but I plan on creating a Spanish version throughout the upcoming year. My project is centered around the South-Central Andes in Peru and is complementary to my own thesis research here at Michigan State University.

The project itself will be hosted on GitHub and will have three main layers. The first layer will be a landing page where users will be able to see pictures I have taken from my field seasons in Peru, access other layers of the site directly through a navigation bar, access related published articles on the archaeological sites included in this project, and be able to interact with the newly created social media pages. Layer 2 is an interactive map with markers designating the various sites included in this project. Users will be able to see the variety of sites represented and click on individual markers which provide site names and links to artifact pages. Layer 3 or the artifact pages will have a 3D model of a projectile point from the site displayed in an interactive viewer. The models will be manipulable with pop-up boxes containing information about the site and artifact viewable on the page itself.

Archaeological sites from the highlands of Peru and desert coast will be featured within my project. I plan on including archaeological sites that date to the initial colonization of Peru (~12.4 kya) to the late holocene (3.1 kya). My project will show the change in material culture through Peruvian prehistory. My future blog posts will outline and detail my progress on the website.

TaylorPanczak

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January 14, 2019

Reflections on a past field season

January 14, 2019 | By | No Comments

This past December I had a short field season in Arequipa Peru where I finished collecting data for my master’s thesis. Even though this season was short (only 2 weeks), I feel like I learned as much as I did during my summer field season (2 months). One of the major things I learned about was that creating 3D models using Agisoft is incredibly time consuming and requires an extreme amount of patience. One of the major problems that I was having is that the models would not render and would not build a correct sparse could which is the first step in creating a model. Previously I thought that the main cause to all my problems was a lack of light but during this season I figured out that the direction of the light is as important, if not more important. I went back through photos I have previously taken that were used to create models successfully and I began to notice a trend. The trend was that the background was not only black but was always out of focus. I compared the successful photos with the ones I had taken recently and found that in the photos that had not successfully built a sparse cloud the background was semi-visible. So after learning this information, I change some settings on my camera and make sure that the background is completely obscured by shadow. Success! I finally get my first sparse cloud to successfully render after countless hours and many failures.

Although I am not an expert on the inner-workings of Agisoft, I have spent some time using the program and have a hypothesis to why having the background completely obscured is important. The simple answer is that the methodology I employ is predicated on having a fixed camera and the object being modeled being placed on a turn table which allows for different angles to be captured. Hypothetically the only objects that should be moving throughout the sets of pictures will be the projectile point and the surface of the turn table on which the point rests. If the background doesn’t have any recognizable features and is just a black blob, the program will only focus on the moving parts within each picture. If the background is illuminated at all, the program will attempt to add the black background into the model and create a spare cloud that looks nothing like the original object.

Overall, I am excited to finally start my thesis writing and work and I look forward to posting updates on this blog.

TaylorPanczak

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November 6, 2018

Digitizing the History of Archaeology: Ethical responsibilities

November 6, 2018 | By | No Comments

Recently I have had the opportunity to scan over 1000 slides of excavations that occurred along the southern coast of Peru throughout the 90’s and early 00’s. While the task itself was mundane and took many more hours than I was expecting, the images that I discovered through this digitization process were absolutely breathtaking. I was witnessing the slow evolution of one of South America’s oldest archaeological sites in terms of excavation and landscape modification. Not every slide itself is valuable but together every slide represents a small portion of a story that was largely only known to the excavators until now. This slide scanning process made me think of the history of archaeology and how the later generations of archaeologists have an ethical responsibility to digitize the old records so they are more freely available. This includes old site forms, journal entries from the PI or the excavators, any pictures of the excavations or tools, and any other documents that could be useful for future archaeologists. Digitizing these documents can also be used as outreach for the public in which archaeologists of the past had worked. This can help to further include communities in the process of archaeological investigation and possibly garner interest from outside the field.

With the discipline becoming more mature and getting older by the year, the history of archaeology is becoming much deeper and is starting to reach a point where some of that history can be lost if it is not moved into a new format. It is no surprise that as technology advances thing become obsolete and eventually become nontransferable onto the newer formats. I fear that if we do not start digitizing old archaeological records soon, we will not be able to transfer them onto a format that is widely and equally available to everyone. Digital records are much easier to gain access to than physical paper copies for obvious reasons but the overall control of information is vastly different between the two mediums. If information is purely stored in a physical format, the paper copies can be easily forgotten through purposeful or unintentional endeavors where as digital information can be sought out on the internet and stumbled upon. My point here is that it is our ethical responsibility as archaeologists to make what we do as widely available as possible to the public and future archaeologists. It is also our responsibility to maintain our own history otherwise we may lose precious information in the miasma of archaeological research. The large and publicly known sites may persist in public and written memory but the supporting sites that build and perpetuate theory have the potential to be lost unless we make a concerted effort to conserve all archaeological data.

 

 

TaylorPanczak

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October 8, 2018

Access to Digital Humanities: a critique

October 8, 2018 | By | No Comments

With the invention and advancement of the digital humanities, anthropology is in a unique position to be inclusive to the populations that are being studied. We as curators of digital archives have the opportunity to help enable access to a societies cultural heritage but is access always equal? Hypothetically, access to the digital humanities should be equal but in practice, this may not be true. The most obvious reason for unequal access is technological availability. According to Internet World Stats, which provides information about internet usage worldwide and collects data from various sources such as the United Nations and the International Telecommunications Union, on average, only 55.1% of a given geographic regions population has internet access. When this figure is broken down further, access to the internet is unequally distributed across the globe with North America (95%) and Europe (86.1%) having the most regular access and Africa (36.1%) and Asia (49%) having the least. The perception of everyone having access to computers or the internet is clearly rooted in a western bias and needs to be addressed when considered when creating a digital archive. Without this consideration, who are we presenting for besides ourselves and a general Western audience? What is considered the “public” needs to be addressed and reevaluated.

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TaylorPanczak

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September 27, 2018

There and Back Again: A CHI fellows tale-Taylor Panczak

September 27, 2018 | By | No Comments

Hi my name is Taylor Panczak and I am a 1st year graduate student at MSU. I have recently transferred into the anthropology program from Northern Illinois University where I completed my first year of graduate studies. I am an archaeologist with a specific focus on lithic technology and the construction of digital representations of  archaeological artifacts. For my masters thesis, I am currently working on creating a projectile point typology from the Terminal Pleistocene highland site of Cuncaicha rockshelter located in the southern Andes of Peru. I am also exploring the nature of inter-zonal connections between the highlands and the coast of Peru by comparing projectile points of similar morphology. I am working with Dr. Kurt Rademaker throughout this project and plan on perusing my PhD soon after I have completed my M.A at MSU.

I graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh in the spring of 2017 with a B.S. in Anthropology. During my undergrad, I had the opportunity to travel to Ukraine twice to participate in excavations at the neolithic archaeological site of Verteba cave During these field seasons I learned valuable information about archaeological methodology and how to be culturally relative. This was my first experience leaving the United States and I quickly learned that no matter how much you wanted to be on time, sometimes the bus just doesn’t show up for that day and you had to take this setback in stride.

This past summer I spent 10 weeks in Peru where I conducted research for my own thesis and also participated in geologic survey of southern Peru. My experiences this summer have changed my outlook on archaeology and have shaped the way I will conduct research in the future. Throughout the field season I would encounter setbacks while attempting to create 3D models of projectile points. Some days the models would not render, the hostel I was staying at would not have electricity, or a variety of issues would occur with the model making software. I quickly learned that it did not matter if I had created 1 3D model or 30 on a given day, I could not give up and had to keep pressing on no matter how much I pleaded with Aegisoft to work.

I am very excited about the upcoming year with CHI and hope to leave a lasting impact on archaeology by creating a large digital archive of the projectile points at Cuncaicha.