Partners – Art, Art History, & Design and Media & Information
Theme – Access in a Digital Environment

Date – December 1st, 2016
Time – 3:00-5:00
Location – REAL Classroom, 3W, Main Library

Models are simplified representations that can be used to examine an idea, experiment with features and variables, or create an immersive experience. Across the arts, humanities, and social sciences, scholars have turned to modeling – including but not limited to virtual reconstruction models, topic models, data models, and network models – as a way to explore systems and provide new ways to access visual artifacts and spaces. In order to foster an interdisciplinary conversation on this topic we are seeking proposals up to 300 words for 7-10 minute presentations that engage with one or more of the following issues:

  • How can physical and virtual models help us study and teach about artifacts, architectures, and landscapes that are far away or no longer exist?
  • What are the strengths and weaknesses of modeling as a method of understanding complex systems?
  • How do experimentation, modeling, and prototyping impact teaching and learning across disciplines?
  • Can modeling help create experiences that improve cross-cultural understanding and empathy?

We are especially receptive to hearing about works in progress relating to research, teaching, or any other type of work that wrestles with the challenges of access in the digital environment. Proposals from students (undergraduate and graduate), faculty, and staff are all encouraged equally.

CFP Close –  11/18/2016

Please submit abstracts of no longer than 300 words to:


Archaeology and 3D Modeling

Autumn Beyer

Creating 3D models in archaeology has become extremely useful. It allows us to teach students, professionals, and the public about museum quality artifacts without the risk of breaking or damaging a unique specimen. For the Morton Village Archaeological Project, we decided to create a 3D model and print of an sandstone pipe recovered from this past summer’s excavations. It allowed us to present the object in various ways, in relation to our interpretation of its archaeological context, and gave visitors a chance to pick up and hold the object themselves. We are going to continue to create 3D model of other artifacts found at the Morton Villages site with the purpose of having them as teaching tools and allowing for greater access to these unique specimens.

3D Modeling of Archaeological Human Remains: Digitally Preserving and Reconstructing Past Populations Through Photogrammetry

Jack Biggs

Over the past year and a half, students in the MSU Maya Bioarchaeology Lab have been using photogrammetry and Agisoft PhotoScan software to create 3D digital models of many skeletal remains from archaeological excavations.  Skulls have been the primary focus, but models of mandibles and long bones are also being created.  The premise for the implementation of this research method is multi-faceted.  Firstly, creating these models allows for digital preservation.  The antiquity of the remains, the environment from which they were unearthed, and the resulting taphonomic processes they endured have culminated in the overall fragility and friability of the skeletal material, most of which are already fragmentary.  The presence of digital models of the bones ensures that researchers have continued access to artifacts that may one day become damaged beyond repair and prevent further research.  Secondly, the digital models grant us the opportunity to conduct metric studies with minimal margins of error as the points of measurement become digitally fixed.  Lastly, and as a result, the 3D digital models give us the ability to look at overall shapes of skulls (an important aspect of ancient Maya identity) in both a quantitative and qualitative capacity which further aides us in reconstructing population dynamics.  Although we are still working through many of these aspects of the project, its potential as a statistical and curatorial tool cannot be overemphasized as anthropology and archaeology are becoming increasingly digital.

Participatory 3D Model-Building: What Can Multimodality offer Urban Planning?

Jack Hennes

2D models are routinely used in the practice of urban planning. In public forums, for instance, planners often present a series of 2D models using presentation slides. However, envisioning a future development in two dimensions—especially when those developments will of course be three dimensions in our physical world—creates a communication problem of dimensions. Furthermore, the public is limited to offering their comments through two modes: written and oral. Limiting citizen engagement through dimensional models and literacies can result in development projects that fail to reflect the rich, diverse perspectives of residents.

In this presentation, I highlight two recent developments in model-building that allow citizens to richly participate in urban and transportation planning. Minecraft, a simple 3D sandbox video game, is now being used to engage citizens in planning parks, cities, and entire regions—and in developing contexts in particular. Meanwhile, 3D printing is being used in cities like Oslo, Norway and Louisville, Kentucky to inspire public input in future designs. To conclude, I highlight how the use of three dimensions can work as a powerful tool to encourage citizen participation, input, and ideas. Furthermore, fostering multiple modes of engagement—written, oral, visual, and haptic—presents citizens with more avenues to provide input on the landscapes where they live, work, and play.

Environmental Computer Simulations: A Look Under the Hood

Stuart Blythe

In this presentation, I would report on research I have conducted with an ecologist and a psychologist as they developed a computer simulation designed to help first-responders predict what might happen during an extended heat wave in Michigan. I would describe the scientists’ particular approach to model creation. My description will be primarily methodological, not technical. In other words, my purpose will not be to demonstrate how to use a simulation program such as STELLA. Rather it will be to describe the kinds of epistemological, procedural, and ethical decisions these experts made as they developed their model. With this presentation, I would hope to enrich an audience’s understanding of types of models, their purposes, and approaches to their development.