Network Analysis to 3D Modeling

Warning to readers: this blog post is created in two parts as it covers two weeks of material. As I was unable to finish my blog post from last week on network analysis but still thought it was important information, I wanted to include some of the material that I had written. My second part of the blog post will be spent on this week’s topic: 3D Modeling. With that being said, let’s get this show on the road!

(Net)workin’ 9 to 5

When looking at the theme of this week’s class, the words ‘network analysis’ did inspire a strike of fear in me, to be honest. Coming from my SILS background, anytime I hear “network analysis,” I am brought into the realm of system analysis, database creation, and all other scary things that I try my best to avoid in the “information science” part of my library degree (I will happily lead all those scary items to Emily C., thank you). But, once broken down into simple terms, and also related in applicable ways in the field of art history, network analysis becomes a lot less scary.

For those who, like me, were a bit nervous in approaching this topic, I would highly recommend Scott Weingart’s blog post “Demystifying Networks.”

Link to Weingart’s blog post.

As the title suggests, Weingart succinctly goes through all of the terms associated with networks and provided an excellent overview of the conceptual information associated with networks. For someone who is new to networks (and a bit fearful), this really basic introduction was extremely helpful for my introduction to the topic. But, more than any of the conceptual definitions Weingart offers or even the explanation of what networks are and how they are used, it is the ‘warning’ that he offers at the beginning of the post that I found most compelling. As we have learned more and more tools throughout this semester and looked at various ways in which you can utilize resources in the digital humanities in our own work, specifically within the field of art history, not every tool is actually useful for research. Weingart writes

“Networks can be used on any project. Networks should be used on far fewer.

Scott Weingart. “Demystifying Networks.”

This approach, and reminder, to network analysis, as well as all of the digital technologies that we have talked about this semester, is extremely important. Just because it is a new tool that you know how to use, it doesn’t mean that you actually should use that tool. Weingart points out that almost anything can be placed in a network; we have looked at that various tools that you can just plop your data sets in and the technology does the rest. But before you include this visualization in your research or place it in a presentation, it is important to ask yourself: is this network analysis altering the question I’m asking? Is it helping me support my thesis? If not, then it might not be productive to use it. This mindset is something that I think many digital humanists should incorporate in their

3D Modeling

In contrast to the week on network analysis, 3D modeling is a much different tool and, therefore, it is utilized in a different way than projects with 3D modeling. Unlike some of the other topics that we have covered in class, there are a variety of articles that have directly addressed the methodologies that have been created. This was a really interesting facet to me as I felt like, in the majority of articles or readings that we have encountered this semester, the methodologies were not something that was clearly expressed or even discussed in the majority of the readings. For reference, here are the citations for the readings that we went over this week:

  • Diane Favro. “In the Eyes of the Beholder: Virtual Reality Re-Creations and Academia.” In Imaging Ancient Rome, edited by Haselberger, Lothar Williams Symposium on Classical Architecture and John H Humphrey, 321–34. Supplementary Series 61. Portsmouth, R.I.: Journal of Roman Archaeology, 2006.
  • Alessandro E. Foni, George Papagiannakis, and Nadia Magnenat-Thalmann. “A Taxonomy of Visualization Strategies for Cultural Heritage Applications.”  Comput. Cult. Herit.3, no. 1 (July 2010): 1:1–1:21. doi:10.1145/1805961.1805962.
  • Christopher Johanson. “Visualizing History: Modeling in the Eternal City.” Visual Resources 25, no. 4 (2009): 403–18.
  • Brent Nelson, Melissa M Terras, and Lisa Snyder, eds. “Virtual Reality for Humanities Scholarship.” In Digitizing Medieval and Early Modern Material Culture, 395–428. Toronto, Ontario; Tempe, Arizona: Iter : Gateway to the Middle Ages and Renaissance ; ACMRS (Arizona Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies), 2012. 
  • Pitukcharoen, Decho. 3D Printing Booklet for Beginners (Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 2014).
  • Jentery Sayers, “Made to Make: Expanding Digital Humanities through Desktop Fabrication,” Made to Make, DH 2013.
  • Melvin J. Wachowiak and Basiliki Vicky Karas, “3D Scanning and Replication for Museum and Cultural Heritage Applications,” JAIC 48 (2009), pp. 141-158.

Before reading these articles for this week, I was really only familiar with 3D modeling being used for cultural heritage institutions (more on that later) as well as Classics studies. In this instance, it makes sense for, not only 3D modeling but many digital humanities tools to be used in Classics studies. Unlike the majority of fields in Art History, Classics scholars focus on objects and works that are often damaged, or even completely lost. Just like it makes sense that the architectural historians were some of the first to embrace the digital humanities as it most aligned with their own research, it makes sense that Classics would use 3D modeling as it could affect and broaden their own research topics.

One of the things that we discussed in class that I think is integral to emphasize is the fact that in may instances, especially with scholars who study other pre-modern global cultures, the 3D models often involve speculation in order to recreate the object. In light of this, it is easy to criticize the fact that there are a lot of inferences being made by the scholar or the person creating the model. But, this is something that has occurred throughout the field of art history or even history. For example, I am currently a Teaching Assistant for the survey class “Introduction to the Art and Architecture of Pre-Hispanic Mesoamerica.” In this class, we constantly look at objects- whether stone sculptures, ruins of temples, or mural paintings- that are extremely damaged. In these instances, scholars are extremely likely to create recreation drawings of these ruins. In these instances, they are making guesses, based on the other objects that they study, to fill in what is not there anymore. Because of this, I don’t think we need to be extremely wary of digital tools doing the same thing.

Hieroglyphic Stairway, Structure 10L-26 (K’ak’ Yipyaj Chan K’awiil), completed ca. 755 CE (Late Classic Period), Maya, Copán, Honduras.
Hieroglyphic Stairway, Color Reconstruction Drawing (by Tatiana Proskouriakoff), Structure 10L-26 (K’ak’ Yipyaj Chan K’awiil), completed ca. 755 CE (Late Classic Period), Maya, Copán, Honduras.

3D Modeling Projects

For me, the first thing that comes to mind when I think about 3D modeling projects that are useful and beneficial to the field are 3D models that are used to crease accessibility services. There are many instances when 3D models are created to help people with visual impairments ‘see’ the object. Being able to add another sense can greatly impact an understanding of an object, even beyond those who are visually impaired. These are already being implemented in some museums, but I think about increasing this service is a wonderful way to broaden the communities who museums are able to reach.

Image result for 3d model of spring by botticelli in the uffizi
Sorry for the quality of the image- the only one I could find online! Pictured here is a 3D model of “La Primavera” by Botticelli in the Uffizzi in Florence
classic-paintings-3D-visual-impaired-prado-museum-madrid (9)
Exhibition at the Museum of Prado

4 Replies to “Network Analysis to 3D Modeling”

  1. Veronica, thanks for this post! I love that you included so many pictures. I also discussed using models for visually impaired visitors and I think the images you used really highlight how helpful this technique can be! I also appreciated your discussion on the pros and cons of “making guesses” as to what lost or damaged objects may have looked like. It’s always interesting to hear the opinion of someone who works with these types of objects, in this case in your teaching. I agree that this is a practice that has been going on for a long time in an analog fashion so I don’t have as much of a problem with it being used with newer tools now. One reason I can imagine it could be more “damaging” now is that people tend to treat digital recreations or models with more authenticity or accuracy than sketches. Somehow the use of technology makes it seem true, whereas it’s easy to understand that an artist’s sketch is just their imagination at work.

  2. Hi Veronica,
    Thanks for your post– I appreciate your consideration of these two tools and how/if we should properly integrate them into our own research/projects.
    Specifically, I agree with your comment on 3D modeling and the ‘educated guess.’ Your example of the Hieroglyphic Stairway proves your point– which in fact is so relevant to all areas of art history. Some could even say that the discipline is just filled with people making ‘educated guesses’ so it seems silly that when it comes to digital tools/methods, certain people choose to write it off as flawed. To me, these ‘guesses’ and 3D/VR recreations seem more helpful than not, especially as educational resources.
    To that point, I also appreciate your note that 3D renderings can help with people who are visually impaired. This reminds me of our conversations this week on different strategies to make museums more accessible to diverse audiences. 3D models definitely serve towards educational initiatives, but moreover help break down the hierarchies of the museum space– acknowledging and accommodating many different types of engagement.

  3. Thanks for bringing in your experience with the course on Pre-Hispanic MesoAmerica! As you saw on instagram I was just at the Museum of Man where they had perfect replicas of the steles and it was super interesting watching the kids interacting them. I also completely agree that 3D modeling is so important for accessibility! Thank you for bringing that up in your post! The Birth of Venus model is incredible, one of the first times I was in the uffizi they had the model out but it was flatter (like horizontal flatter, I wonder if that changes the experience at all) I know even being someone with full sight there’s something really interesting about having a tactile experience of a painting. I think it would be really interesting if a museum created almost like a full 3D scan of a painting with heavy impasto, perhaps like Van Gogh?

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