3D Scholarly Digital Editions: Requirements And Challenges For New Publication Models

panel / roundtable
  1. 1. Angel David Nieves

    San Diego State University (SDSU)

  2. 2. Susan Schreibman

    Maastricht University

  3. 3. Costas Papadopoulos

    Maastricht University

  4. 4. Lisa Snyder

    University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA)

Work text
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Digital and interactive forms of scholarship challenge established practices in the Arts & Humanities. Audiovisual content, graphic interfaces, and different types of visualizations employed in new forms of presentation and publication (e.g. websites, blogs, online databases, 3D worlds) do not conform with existing concepts of scholarship, and established practices of evaluation. Bringing together 3D model making (scholarship more generally) and the work of digital scholarly editions (DSE) is in fact new, and not a series of scholarly theories and practices that have been previously deployed in the digital humanities. Although these digital vehicles powerfully disseminate and engage with scholarship, scholars who implement these ‘new’ modalities are confronted by “the same old,” established mechanisms with which to gauge ‘impact’ among one’s scholarly peers, i.e. within traditional and long-established publications (Denbo 2018). Today, there exist few scholars who have combined expertise in both content and the use of 3D technologies. 3D digital scholarship may have been "ignored," in part because scholars are unfamiliar with available technologies and often feel uncomfortable evaluating such. With little to no experience with 3D digital scholarship, peer-review among senior academics is especially difficult. Therefore, much highly original and innovative research and scholarship is ignored in the absence of evaluations and metrics for digital scholarship – for instance, when awarding tenured posts or when evaluating research outputs and impact.
This panel discusses a particular form of interactive scholarship, 3D visualisation, that despite its long tradition in humanities research, is still faced with scepticism and hesitation, not only because of the constant technological shifts and exigencies and the fragile ecosystem within which projects are being developed, but also due to their non-conventional nature that does not adhere to established academic practices and metrics (Sullivan, Nieves, Snyder, 2017).
The proposed panel, consisting of scholars working on 3D computer graphics and Digital Scholarly Editions, explores 3D Scholarly Editions (3DSE) as a means to approach 3D modelling and reconstruction as scholarship. 3D Scholarly Editions are (re)constructions that include robust contextual information, metadata, and paradata either in the form of in-world textual or multimodal annotations and supplementary side sources. We would argue that the annotation needs to take advantage of the affordances of the medium to be truly effective when providing access to alternative versions of a (re)construction and background information about the world being modelled, or when providing access to the creation process. This type draws from the theory and practice of Digital Scholarly Editing (DSE) that, in turn, draws from a long history of practice in editing texts for print (Shillingsburg, 1999; Apollon et al., 2014; Schreibman, 2013; Pierazzo, 2015; Driscoll and Pierazzo, 2016).
Paper I
“3D as a Research Practice: Opportunities, Affordances, Challenges”
Literature and Art:
Since the mid-80s, 3D modelling and visualisations have become a substantial research practice in digital history, archaeology, and heritage. These range from schematic (re)constructions of buildings to photorealistic renderings and spatiotemporal simulations of ancient structures. Standalone, offline 3D reconstructions have been used as analytical tools to investigate properties of past environments, providing metric data that can inform the interpretive process. For example, visibility and lighting analysis in 3D spaces has provided a new way of analysing space, as well as discussing and understanding social patterns and socio-symbolic meanings (Dawson et al. 2007; Paliou 2013, Papadopoulos & Earl 2014). Offline 3D modelling projects have a long and more consistent tradition as opposed to online virtual worlds (Sequiera and Morgado, 2013), that were mainly developed during the years that Second Life and Open Simulator were at their peak. Both platforms democratised the process of creating virtual worlds as they did not require highly advanced 3D modelling skills, while enabling a novel way of experiencing history/heritage and working in an online environment for pedagogical and research purposes, unlike anything previously available (Wankel and Kingsley 2009).
Both offline and online 3D visualisation projects have generated debate over their photorealistic and deceptive nature, as well as lengthy discussions about transparency and ambiguity (Miller and Richards 1995; James 1997; Goodrick and Gillings 2000; Eiteljorg 2000; Clark 2010). Proof-of-concept theoretical frameworks and implementations, such as the London Charter (Denard 2012), Seville Principles, and the Epoch’s Interpretation Management, have been developed to demonstrate intellectual rigour in 3D models and explicate decision-making in the process of their creation.
Changes in software, hardware, operating systems, and the Internet itself have also generated debate over the value of virtual 3D worlds as scholarship. Most of the early projects developed in Second Life and/or Unity 3D are not accessible anymore, thus making it difficult for new projects to learn from previous work, especially given that their experiential, spatiotemporal nature is only accessible via conventional, static, and two-dimensional images. The instability of the research environment is often a deterrent to researchers working with such methods, since even when virtual worlds can be ported from one framework to another, this involves significant costs, downsampling and even rebuilding models, and repurposing content that cannot be fully migrated.
Online and interactive scholarship, even text-based, has always faced technological shifts and exigencies; however, even in such a fragile ecosystem, changes, successes, and failures enable alternative forms of research, inform the interpretive process, and assist knowledge production. This paper explores humanities research undertaken in 3D computer graphics discussing the affordances of the medium, as well as the opportunities and challenges that researchers face, paving the way for new and alternative forms of methodological and theoretical frameworks for 3D scholarship.
Paper II
“A rationale for 3D Editions within the practice of textual scholarship”
Literature and Art:
The nature, functionality, and theories informing Digital Scholarly Editions (DSEs) have flourished over the past three decades, moving beyond how to represent print-based texts in digital forms into new types of knowledge production and dissemination informed by the affordances of the medium (Apollon et al 2014; Sutherland 1997; Driscoll and Pierazzo 2016, Pierazzo 2015). In Derridean terms, these editions function more like an archive or knowledge site, a space for gathering together texts on a specific theme, individual, or topic, expanding the world of its creation into an archontic space for inscription and investigation (Derrida and Prenowitz 1995, 10). Moreover, these sites need not privilege the alphanumeric. As early as 1999, when the first digital archives were being published, McKenzie described the range of objects that could be open to the kinds of intensive bibliographical study that textual scholars had traditionally reserved for print and manuscript traditions, ‘as verbal, visual, oral and numeric data’ (McKenzie 1999, 13).
Conceiving three-dimensional (3D) (re)constructions as Digital Scholarly Editions might seem anti-intuitive, at first glance. After all, the technologies, methodologies, and theories that have informed the creation of DSEs – everything from TEI/XML, documentary vs critical editions, and relational vs XML-aware databases to more recent discussions of how the texts created in DSEs can be repurposed, remodelled, and algorithmically analysed and visualized – share little with the technologies, methodologies, and theories that have informed scholarship expressed through 3D (re)constructions.
We argue in this panel, however, that 3D (re)constructions, can, in the McKenziean sense, serve as the primary text of a digital scholarly edition. As argued in the previous paper, these include, broadly speaking, cultural heritage visualisations and simulations. What distinguishes 3D(re)constructions as editions from the use of 3D technology for gaming, documentation of evidence (as for an archaeology site), or sites for analysis (eg testing hypothesis or simulating phenomena), is that the 3D (re)construction is embedded in a knowledge site, where evidence (textual, social, and historical) is gathered in the form of annotation and apparatus (Gabler, 2010, 44).
As knowledge sites, they encompass within the same computational paradigm both the primary text (in this case the 3D world) and the evidence that informed the decisions in creating the text, thus providing the community which it serves a tool for ‘prying problems apart and opening up a new space for the extension of learning’ (Apollon et al., 2014, 5-6). This framework provides the information structures and evidence that make up the edition so that the audience can understand the process behind the creation of the edition, and adjudicate its authenticity and reliability.
Paper III
“Delineating & (Re)Constructing New Modes of Digital Scholarly Editing w/3D Modelling: A Look at Annotation, Ambiguity, and Transparency”
Over the past year, funded by a grant from both the National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC) and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, a team of sixteen (16) digital humanists – including faculty, librarians, technologists and university publishers – has been working to bring together 3D modelling and digital editions in an effort to advance scholarly publishing practices. As part of this work, this team has reimagined how a scholarly digital edition might include 3D models in the form of annotation and apparatus (Gabler, 2010, 44). Four scholars, two working in the ancient world, and two others on sites/locations dating from the twentieth-century, have developed working prototypes for a more robust and sustainable digital platform that could include 3D models of cultural heritage objects, or entire virtual worlds of historical reconstructions within the framework of digital scholarly editions. However, bringing together these two areas of digital scholarship with their own unique histories and practices has required a re-examination of the methods deployed in digital scholarly editions including annotation, ambiguity, and transparency. Interestingly, scholars in textual editing and 3D re-construction share similar challenges in modelling the textual and material record. One of the more difficult areas of overlap in both fields is how to represent temporal and spatial concerns when the evidence is scant or imperfect and otherwise requires evaluating the evidentiary record. This paper will look at the ways in which the traditional apparatus in digital scholarly editing aligns with 3D modelling and (re)construction to enhance methods in annotation, ambiguity, and transparency (Schreibman, 2002, 288-89). Each of the four 3D scholarly editions (3DSE) comprising parts of the year-long planning grant provides examples as to how these overlaps in knowledge production have been addressed and helps illustrate a process for embarking on this “new” area in digital humanities scholarship. The four-3DSEs include: ‘3D Saqqara Project’ (Egypt); ‘Contested Memories: The Battle of Mount Street Bridge (BMSB) Project’ (Ireland); ‘Apartheid Heritage(s) Project’ (South Africa); and ‘Neolithic House Project’ (Greece).
Annotation, as some have argued, might provide opportunities for enabling new forms of structured data permitting readers/users to arrive at their own interpretation of the text (Bauer and Zirker 2017, 212). Deep explanatory annotations could also provide ways of addressing how decisions are made by both the editor and the model maker in 3D scholarly editions. Annotations are a way of reconstructing the historical context of a work, and, in turn, a way to address the subjectivity of the editor in that reconstruction process. Scholars involved in 3D (re)constructions can learn a great deal from the series of widely accepted practices deployed by digital edition editors, while also providing new ways of addressing some of the more contested aspects of scholarly interpretation, how to reconcile with the many facsimiles of the various witnesses in an edition, or how the reader/user might engage their own interpretation of the materials. Interestingly, three of the four 3DSEs are now coalescing around an agreed-upon framework for addressing the text (in this case the virtual 3D model) through a dynamic interface design that bridges textual editing and 3D modelling practices.
Interpretation remains the core activity in literary studies (Gius and Jacke 2017, 233). Understanding the limitations of interpretation has also meant that most scholars will agree that literary texts are ambiguous or polyvalent, allowing for conflicting interpretations. Ambiguity, in 3D (re)constructions is very similar to textual editing – particularly with regards to the subjective nature of gathering, selecting, and interpreting evidence – although “there are less codified ways to express ambiguity” (Schreibman and Papadopoulos 2018, 6). Finding practice-based, generally agreed upon methods to represent ambiguity remain unresolved as attempts to codify this work are often tailor-made to specific projects or constrained by the limitations of existing platforms. In an effort to provide a sustainable long-term solution for documenting the decision-making process, the editors of all four of the 3DSE in this project have arrived at a proof-of-concept that draws upon the core set of technologies and methods found in textual editing.
Perhaps the most fruitful synergy in this year-long planning grant has been our attempt to make transparent how the work of the 3D modeler with respect to the textual editor (and vice-versa) informs the other while developing a new paradigm for this sort of “intertextual network” edition. As Schreibman and Papadopoulos will argue in their papers, the 3DSE editor role requires a clear framework that brings together models, theories, and paradigms for the documentation and display of text while also acknowledging some of the difficulties in making all these processes visible to the reader/user. Critically important is outlining how might we provide a means for documenting the decision-making process that does not detract from the source materials, and also finds a balance between overall interpretation and individual decision making without overwhelming the reader/user.
Bringing together the scholarly practices of 3D (re)constructions and digital editions has meant an important re-thinking of how both areas can contribute to our understanding of scholarly editing practices, while also helping address the common concerns over sustainability, reader/user engagement, and, more broadly, scholarly publishing. As this paper suggests, annotation, ambiguity, and transparency provide the foundational elements for new knowledge practices that are richly layered and generative of new standards for our work in the fields of three-dimensional modeling, virtual reconstructions, and 3D computer graphic simulations. The theoretical and methodological practices we have outlined here also require a critical examination of the roles our institutions play in supporting this kind of work, both technically and programmatically, requiring as it does, a clear commitment to collaborative scholarship. In all four of our 3DSEs, these works are only made possible with the support of librarians, technologists, and modelers who understand the nature of collaborative work relying upon different areas of expertise.
Paper IV
“Technological Requirements for 3D Publishing”
Information Technology:
With the emergence of stable digital technologies capable of supporting ongoing knowledge production – specifically the publication of scholarly 3D material – its user base or academic audience will require a scholarly computer model also that also provides an interactive user experience, i.e.one that will permit the audience to test arguments and further immerse itself in the 3D experience. While acknowledging the importance of reality-based models produced from scans or photos of extant sites and artifacts, this paper focuses on stand-alone 3D environments that are the result of significant well-documented scholarship, that explore the requirements for their publication from the perspective of both scholars and presses, and discuss available technological options for academics seeking to publish 3D work.
Whether created manually, procedurally, or through some combination of reality- and sourced-based modeling, these environments were developed with a research question or pedagogical objective at its core, and are also intended to demonstrate and acknowledge the interpretative decisions made during their construction. As acts of scholarship, these models are intended to be assessed and peer reviewed, and can arguably be considered knowledge production in and of themselves. Yet, integration of this type of work into the scholarly record remains a challenge.
In a 2016 working group meeting, Elaine A. Sullivan from the University of California – Santa Cruz succinctly summarized the academic’s perspective: “As a scholar, I want my work to be a part of the academic record. I want it to be published, I want it to be sustainable, I want it to be peer reviewed, I want it to be considered in the same conversations as other forms of academic output, I want it to be cited by colleagues in my discipline, and I want others to build off of my work for their own scholarship. Perhaps most importantly, I want it to count for promotion and tenure.” To facilitate that depth of academic engagement, technology is needed that can facilitate the transformation of raw computer models into information-rich virtual environments that support annotation, bibliography, linkages to primary and secondary documentary evidence, citations, and secondary scholarship – all the while preserving and respecting the author’s intellectual property.
From the publisher’s perspective, technology is needed that will support the editing and peer-review process; will seamlessly integrate itself into existing publishing workflows; will deliver the 3D material to viewers/users in a manner that accommodates the intent of the author; will ensure access to the content for purposes of reproducibility, reuse, and purposeful deformation; and, perhaps most critically, will preserve this material as part of the academic record.
Currently, there are limited options for publishing 3D content. The final section of the paper will consider the challenges of self-publishing or uploading material to an online asset warehouse or similar commercial option (e.g., Europeana, Sketchfab), review the few examples where presses are exploring mixed media and interactive user experiences (e.g., “Studies in Digital Heritage” at University of Indiana, “A Mid-Republican House from Gabii” from University of Michigan Press), and describe ongoing efforts to building technology platforms for the publication of 3D material (e.g., the IIIF Universal Viewer, the UCLA-based VSim software and repository/archive funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities in the U.S.).

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