An archaeological emotive study through point and click archaeogaming: investigating nostalgia, complex and negative emotions and how they are triggered and/or hidden in archaeological research

Ottonello, Luca (2024) An archaeological emotive study through point and click archaeogaming: investigating nostalgia, complex and negative emotions and how they are triggered and/or hidden in archaeological research. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

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Academic discourse in archaeological computer graphics has tended to focus primarily on a perceived tension between possibilities of digital media for creative practice and theoretical debates around the accuracy and authenticity of physical data gathered in archaeological investigation. This debate has focussed extensively on discussions of precision and accuracy in the reconstruction of buildings, landscapes, and archaeological objects. Despite these factors being important to the investigation of the past, there is a large area of investigation that still offers the possibility of interesting discoveries, and this is the emotive data that complements the physical data. One of the effects of this narrowing of discourse has been that humans have often been invisible from digital archaeological representation and so, as a direct consequence, has been the representation of emotion.

The study of emotion as much as the study of physical reconstruction can enhance the way archaeological computer graphics can aid the study of history. Emotional factors connected to storytelling are an under-researched aspect of archaeology. This research aims to address and explore such factors further. The central argument to this thesis is that exploring emotion as a core component in our understanding of the past is needed in order to achieve a fuller vision of the past. The possibility of being able to better represent archaeological understandings of the past through storytelling and immersion has the potential to move theoretical discourse beyond a focus on issues of accuracy and authenticity towards a fuller, more experiential, more practice-driven conception of the value of archaeological computer graphics.

The use of archaeologically themed videogames is a proposed solution that may allow the storytelling and emotion to accompany and complement the physical reconstructions mentioned above. This would give the potential for a researcher with no experience in digital design and programming to create an archaeogame tackling principles connected to emotive perception and having a narrative and technical game design strong enough to create a sense of immersion that in turn would allow a level of emotive perception and experience to the users with a focus on serious games. As a way of exploring the value of emotions as a component of archaeological representation, this thesis will focus on nostalgia and negative or complex emotions. These emotions are a leitmotif in the representation of the past, both within archaeology and within visual culture more broadly. As well as being potentially problematic and perhaps encouraging uncritical attitudes to these images, nostalgia and negative or complex emotions also have the potential to create empathy, communicate the commonality of human experience through time while also emphasising profound cultural and material differences.

The above application of nostalgic and complex emotions has the potential to tackle the issue of applying modern emotive concepts associated to justice and morality to the past which might subjectively influence the interpretation of the context within such past, by both archaeologists and the intended audience. In terms of archaeology, this research would allow us to explore and interpret the reasons behind the creation and use of material culture beyond the simple utilitarian use, integrate life stories of the people who either created or used such objects and enhance the storytelling allowing the audience to immerse themselves in the archaeology. As archaeology confronts its role in colonialism, and the extent to which colonial ideas still inform elements of archaeological thinking, it has become necessary to allow voices, sentiments, and ideas from outside of our hegemonic, empirical disciplinary paradigm, to find expression.

One part of this process is to acknowledge the need for emotive factors to feature in our understanding of past events, but also to acknowledge the role of emotion in helping contemporary people to formulate responses to the past within archaeological research, this research will attempt to investigate how far the emotive subjectivity of archaeologists influences such interpretation.

The method used to achieve the above aims, was to investigate the literature available on emotions in digital archaeological applications, combining it with the literature on archaeogaming, game design and serious games and attempting to obtain the missing emotive reasoning not documented in the literature through a series of interviews with relevant authors. The results of the literature analysis and the interviews were then employed in the creation of an archaeogame built with the principle in mind that it should have been simple enough for an archaeologist not an expert in digital design to develop easily still developing a strong enough narrative and designed to provoke and experience emotive triggers aimed specifically at nostalgia and negative or complex emotions.

The key results of this stage of the research were several hypothetical concepts from the interviews in relation to emotive reaction to situations enacted within the storytelling and the narrative, experimenting on the personal or subjective manner and direction of such reactions by testers of an archaeogame designed just for this purpose, fully developed using basic computer skills avoiding programming developed by a single archaeologist.

The results of the interviews of the users after experiencing the game, were a confirmation of the specific emotive reactions to some of the emotive triggers within the archaeogame designed in line with the concepts of game design, storytelling and narrative found within archaeogaming and serious games, together with more hypotheses within the realm of archaeological subjectivity in interpretation, applicability, and feasibility of using archaeogaming to study emotions within archaeology. Furthermore, the results allowed an evaluation of the ability for archaeologists to combine other disciplines and areas of study to better investigate and show emotive connections to material culture which showed a positive inclination towards the feasibility of such a feat.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
C Auxiliary Sciences of History > CC Archaeology
Q Science > QA Mathematics > QA76 Computer software
Colleges/Schools: College of Arts & Humanities > School of Humanities > Archaeology
Supervisor's Name: Beale, Dr. Gareth and Opitz, Dr. Rachel
Date of Award: 2024
Depositing User: Theses Team
Unique ID: glathesis:2024-84307
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 09 May 2024 14:45
Last Modified: 10 May 2024 08:37
Thesis DOI: 10.5525/gla.thesis.84307

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