Visualizing the Past/Peopling the Past

CIS106 / ANTH 258

Fall Semester 2017

MWF 11am-noon

Dr. Norman Badler, Rachleff Professor of Computer and Information Science:

Dr. Clark Erickson, Professor of Anthropology and Curator, Penn Museum:

CIS 106 / ANTH 258 is a highly interdisciplinary course that approaches fundamental issues in Anthropology and Computer Science. Using an anthropological perspective, this course focuses on the history, theory, and methods of how archaeology and visualizations of the past are created, presented and used in scholarly media (e.g., traditional publications, conference papers, and project databases), and popular culture (e.g., artist’s reconstructions, movies, TV documentaries, museum exhibits, games, the internet, and art), and contemporary computer technology (e.g., 3D modeling, Animation, virtual reality, and simulation). From the computer science perspective, the challenge becomes how we [can best] transform known and often incomplete information into engaging digital models and plausible of a past culture and its people. Students gain acquisition of fundamental computer programming and data analysis skills using the programming language Python. They also learn to use modern 3D modeling tools (Audodesk Maya) and animation engines (such as the UnReal Game Engine). The course assignments include writing essays critiquing popular media depictions of the past, in-class oral presentations with visual aids, programming labs, 3D model development, and a final project that utilizes contemporary computational tools to explain and visualize culturally relevant questions, knowledge, or hypotheses. Presentations by the instructors include relevant anthropological background materials and tutorials on the computational tools to be used, and the thought processes needed to connect the two. The course material itself is broad and requires additional conceptual integration by the student. To facilitate this process, the instructors will use the SEAS Open Learning Classroom for hands-on 3D modeling experience and will utilize the Penn Museum to explore artifact collections through Object-Based Learning and evaluate public exhibits. The course materials therefore include extensive original visual materials developed by Dr. Erickson and cutting-edge virtual reality, simulation, and computer software developed by Dr. Badler's ViDi Center for Digital Visualization.