Public Archaeology Twitter Conference: Social Virtual Archaeology!


On July 25th, we held the well-attended AltspaceVR event Social Virtual Archaeology: An Experiment in Public Archaeology. We chatted about archaeology (in the public imagination and our personal experiences) while we tromped around a detailed photogrammetric 3D representation of an archaeological ruin in the southwest US. See the video below for a flavor of the convo. I submitted an account of the event to the upcoming Public Archaeology Twitter Conference, and it was accepted! The format is that of a tweetchat. Please search for #PATC4 11:45 ET/4:45 BST (British Summer Time) to see my tweets! Then, at 3:45 US ET/8:45 BST, after 32 15-minute presentations, plus intro and keynote, jump into our archaeologically-themed shared 3D-space via the AltspaceVR social VR platform. VR headsets are most fun, but the free non-VR Windows and Android clients work great too!

Please join our experiment in combining two great social media platforms: Social VR and Twitter!

PS The following is my submitted and accepted proposal:

Social Virtual Archaeology: An Experiment in Public Archaeology

52 people signed up to participate in a group conversation about archaeology during an online shared virtual reality experience. On July 25th, we gathered within a 3D photogrammetric representation of Aztec Ruins West in northern New Mexico. For one hour, up to 30 VR users at a time were present together in a shared virtual 3D space to discuss such topics as how we became interested in archaeology, which museums and sites we have visited, what documentaries we like to watch, as well as comments and questions about the prehistory, history, culture, and archaeology of southwestern United States. During our conversation, we viewed informational photographs, maps, placards, signs, and text content, while touring a 3D virtual representation of Aztec Ruins West and the Great Kiva, Lowry Pueblo, in southwest Colorado.

Over the course of an hour, our conversation touched on the following topics (see link below to Youtube recording):

  • Photogrammetry
  • Indian mounds
  • Southwest US archaeology
  • Indian Jones
  • Museums w/archaeological artifacts
  • Anthropology courses
  • Visiting Archaeology sites
  • Festival of Archaeology
  • Time Team TV series
  • Archaeology “digs”
  • New to social VR
  • Immersion, Presence, Embodiment
  • Importing Archaeology 3D objects
  • What were kivas for?
  • Great Kiva architecture
  • Tour thru/beneath Aztec Ruins
  • Malta archaeology
  • Battlefield archaeology
  • Finding sites via Google Earth
  • Field trip to Old Fort Niagara
  • Sites threatened by development
  • Gettysburg
  • Battlefield Detectives TV series
  • Ancient pueblo construction
  • Chaco Canyon/Pueblo Bonito
  • Computer reconstruction
  • Site visitation rules/etiquette
  • Looting/Artifact provenance
  • Chaco Meridian
  • Camping overnight in ruins
  • Visit a high-resolution kiva
  • Masonry techniques
  • Summary & synthesis
  • Leave-taking

Social virtual reality is phenomenologically a completely different subjective experience than posting, reading, and replying to traditional social media activity streams such as Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and similar. Immersion (of one’s senses in a virtual environment), presence (feeling as if actually physically present together), and embodiment (feeling as if your avatar is physically your body) lead to conversation more accurately imitating real-life, face-to-face, social interaction. It is a high-bandwidth, dynamically co-produced, oral, postural, and gestural “dance.”

During my presentation, via Twitter, I will recount our settings, activities, workflows, and resources to allow anyone with a VR headset, such as the $199 Oculus Go, to host their own social virtual reality event featuring archaeological sites and artifacts.

Event promo video (1.5K+ views)


Event Landing Page (see for more links to relevant content)


Youtube Recording (see below)

Aztec Ruin

Aztec Ruin

Great Kiva, Lowry Pueblo


Unity 3D Engine

3D world used for AltspaceVR event (feel free to visit and experience!)

AltspaceVR social VR platform

Some non-VR headset alternatives


Android (install Oculus, navigate to AltspaceVR, choose non-Gear VR option)

Recording Disclaimer: By entering this event, you hereby irrevocably grant AltspaceVR and Microsoft and its affiliates, agents, and licensees, the right, but not the obligation, to photograph and record your avatar, likeness, voice, and/or username and to own, license, assign, and use the same (or any portion) in the production, exhibition, and promotion of the event, AltspaceVR or other Microsoft products and services without compensation, in any media and on any platform now known or hereafter devised (including the Internet) throughout the universe in perpetuity.  You waive the right to bring action of any kind in law or equity against Microsoft.
If you wish to not be recorded, simply leave the event. (But we hope you’ll stay!)