3D Modeling Projects and Problems

Having the opportunity to create a 3D model provides a chance to take something from the world, the stuff of real life, and translate it into computable data for an operating system to create something from. As Raphael has already posted about, he, Tori, and I are part of a Digital Humanities and Art History collaborative project to model architectural sites from medieval Paris which I’ll talk a bit about here.

Snyder’s essay, Virtual Reality for Humanities Scholarship, lays down the basics for anyone who wants to tackle a DH project in 3D modeling and creating virtual reality. Her case studies on different virtual reality projects really capture what it is to work on one of these projects and highlight some of the problems that arise. Once the idea for a 3-dimensional project has been proposed, every decision after that point affects the final outcome. Even the choice of what software to use plays a huge role in the look and feel of the final product. (It’s important to note that not all modeling software is created equal; most offer very similar functions but there are special functions for each program and they each carry out tasks in different ways.) The Paris modeling project uses Vectorworks, a modeling system designed with architects in mind. Vectorworks and Google’s SketchUp, a program perhaps more people are familiar with, both offer 3D modeling services but Vectorworks seems much more sophisticated in layout and variety of functions offered. Perhaps this sophistication comes from the fact that I’m a novice in the 3D modeling world but it is true that Vectorworks has a large amount of specialized features for its users.

SketchUp prism
A rectangular prism made on SketchUp

With SketchUp I was able to make this prism very intuitively without knowing much about the software already. I used the pencil tool to create a rectangle and then selected the tool that looks like a box with an arrow point up to make it 3-dimensional. There aren’t too many fancy buttons here but it gets the job done.

Vectorworks prism
A rectangular prism made with Vectorworks

Vectorworks, however, is its own story. Basic functions like drawing shapes can be found in the Basic palette of tools off to the left, which is where I selected the rectangle tool to draw a 2D shape and then I had to extrude it to convert it to a 3D shape. At this point I know that I can use the shortcut command+E to extrude, but a few months ago I spent a good amount of time hunting through all the menus to find the function that would make my shapes 3D. Looking at all the options in Vectorworks, especially compared to those in SketchUp, can seem a little overwhelming since there are so many more specialized modeling features offered here.

After the software for a virtual reality project is chosen the researchers and modelers can begin translating the information they have into the beginnings of a 3D model. Much like in Snyder’s example of creating a virtual Florence from historical sources, the professors and researchers behind the Paris project have also compiled sources that range from primary documents, like letters, building plans, and engravings, to recent scholarly research, and photographs of surviving elements.  Snyder hints at the complexities that even this beginning stage presents, but it is not until you actually have to sift through repositories of text and images to begin creating the foundation of a building, that the large scope of the project becomes clear.

I could go on for days about the importance of small details behind this DH project, and I’m sure Tori and Raphael could too, but there is so much more beyond this project that I don’t have the space to discuss, so I’ll end with this big-picture statement about the Paris project: one of the outcomes is to create models that will allow us to test the theories of Gothic historians, to see if they stand up to the test of recreation, and conversely, if our recreations stand up to the test of scholarly research.

Week 9: Rethinking Virtual “Reality”

According to Favro, the interpretation of history “informs subsequent development.” This means that the perspectives and knowledge that one takes away from an experience affect what happens from there on, either as it is later taught or how one understands it and how it shapes their beliefs. This could also be applied to the virtual simulation experiences that are talked about in this week’s articles. These simulations are made by “researchers experimenting with new technologies” (Favro), and the knowledge that the experience produces are affected by the researchers’ initial understanding of what they are portraying, but also how the information  and experience comes across to the user. This reminds me of previous weeks’ readings about data visualizations, and how there is much room for error in how the user interprets what they are seeing, especially if they have room to assume. This miscommunication between visualization and user is a recurring issue in digital humanities work. Favro, when discussing his Roman historical site modeling project, mentions some ways to prevent it, such as “expansive metadata” explaining the context as well as including “surrounding environmental context” to give users reference. There are still problems, however. Favro says that users get too focused on the “knowledge representations” that are the visualization and lose the content. I think this is because there is too much focus on the visualization being an accurate “simulation”. The users assume and want a “hyper-realistic simulacra,” and then lose interest when the reality of the program’s technical incapabilities gets in the way. This could be avoided by the researchers shifting focus about what the experience’s goals are. The solution to sub-par “reality” visuals is to approach it in a different way, focusing on the experience and content rather than the visuals. A slightly unrealistic visualization that claims to be “virtual reality” is misleading to users. They either get a false understanding or what is reality, or get frustrated because it can’t compare to reality. Instead, digital humanities researchers should think of new ways to use the programs, and make the execution a personalized project just like the step of choosing a technology to work with in the first place. For example, there are more and more applications of augmented-reality coming out. Augmented-reality is a way to combine real with virtual, but still, many companies think of the virtual as trying to simulate the real as much as possible. There is a reason it is virtual, and this new medium should come with new ways to approach it, instead of “simulating” something that it is not. There are so many possibilities that can expand the content of the experience because it uses a virtual environment, if only the concept of “reality” is rethought. Instead of trying to be realistic, take advantage of being unrealistic and make it work to the program. Looking “unrealistic” can be an advantage just as well, and can work better for users, because it can get them to focus on the content instead of how “realistic” the experience looks.

Screen Shot 2014-11-30 at 9.22.52 PM

Week 9 – 3D Modeling in The Sims

Last winter, I took a class taught by Dr. Favro, so I was very interested in the article she wrote, “A Personal Walk Through Historical Simulation Modeling at UCLA”, from this week’s reading. In the class I took with her, we used the 3D Model of the Roman Forum for a project where we wrote a narrative about someone walking through the Forum and used the model as a visual accompaniment to our story. The narrative was supposed to inform readers about how different classes of people felt experiencing the different parts of the forum. When I did this project, I thought the Roman Forum model was really interesting and complex, but I did not realize how much went into creating it. In this article, Favro discusses the phases of the project – Phase 1: Formation, data aggregation and interrogation of process and Phase 2: Geo-temporal interrogation and increased kinetic experimentation. As someone who has experienced the 3D Model of the Roman Forum, it was very informative to hear Dr. Favro’s account of her experience making the model. Prior to taking her class, I did not know there were so many projects focused on digitally recreating historical sites. In fact my only experience with 3D modeling had been games like the Sims and Zoo Tycoon.

I played the Sims 2 and Zoo Tycoon in elementary school because I thought they were fun, but in retrospect, games like the Sims and Zoo Tycoon are a really great example of 3D interactive modeling. The programs offer a lot of room for creativity and freedom. Most of the time you built your house or zoo entirely from scratch. If you were a interested in architecture, the Sims could be a great tool for practicing building houses. As new versions of the Sims came out, they became even more detailed and realistic. The Sims 2 is the first to offer 3D visuals. I found some really beautiful examples of modern and contemporary homes built on the Sims 2.

sims_2_modern_black_and_yellow_hillside_mansion_by_ramborocky-d5awhkg small_modern_house_by_ramborocky-d595crk MTS_sarahrose-1020972-Sims2ep92009-10-2117-23-49-122


These homes probably weren’t built by the average Sims player, but it’s still kind of crazy to think these can be built on a computer game designed for children. I stopped playing after the Sims 2, as new versions came out the 3D visuals in the Sims got even better. Here is an example of a house built using the Sims 3.


These houses are from the newest version, the Sims 4.

The-Sims-4 TS4_054_PE_HOUSE_02_001

From the pictures, it is evident that the 3D graphics got better and more realistic with each version of the Sims. The houses from the Sims 2 look very flat compared to 3 and 4. Playing this game as a kid is probably what sparked my interest in architecture. I always paid more attention to designing their houses than actually playing with the characters. 3D models are becoming more and more accessible, and are great tools.

Modeling the Past

It is amazing to track the progress that has been made within the entire field of digital humanities over the past few decades. The constant advances in technology have paved the way for the addition of exciting, new visualization tools to be used in digital humanities projects. For example, 3D modeling tools have become very popular and have given professionals as well as intrigued students the opportunity to create as well as experience complete 3D digital models. Diane Favro’s depiction of digital technologies in “Meaning in Motion. A Personal Walk Through Historical Simulation Modeling at UCLA”, gives a brief history of the evolution of 3D modeling at UCLA, specifically discussing its role in a roman architecture project. The ability to create a detailed virtual simulation using 3D modeling tools gives complete creative control to the creator of the model, and allows for an endless amount of final products. Having the ability to recreate intricate roman architecture virtually, and situate it in a specific time in history for others to explore is truly an amazing capability.


Diane Favro’s account of the Roman 3D modeling project specifically reminded me of another 3D model my ancient Egyptian history professor went over in our class. This ancient Egyptian model of Karnak (link), allows users to explore the famous Egyptian city virtually through the years to see its holistic progression as a city over time. 3D models similar to this one allow for students to learn about ancient times and places through visual understanding and exploration, rather than simply reading endless amounts of text. Being able to connect ideas and history with a visual location adds an extra element to one’s complete understanding of a specific topic. 3D modeling has revolutionized the capabilities of those in the digital humanities field and offers extremely unique perspectives that other forms of model are not able to provide. I am very interested to see where this technology goes in the future, as I believe there are still many facets within 3D modeling that have yet to be created and explored. The concept of 3D modeling had advanced and become a reality so quickly that it is exciting to think about how it will progress in the coming years. This technology will allow for historical sites to be preserved digitally and provide students as well as any other interested parties the chance to thoroughly explore any destination they desire. There possibilities are endless.



  1. Digital Karnak Project: http://dlib.etc.ucla.edu/projects/Karnak
  2. Diane Favro. “Meaning in Motion. A Personal Walk Through Historical Simulation Modeling at UCLA”, in: Visualizing Statues in the Late Antique Forum

Week 9: Hello Hacks

While reading Natalia Cecire’s “Introduction: Theory and the Virtues of Digital Humanities,” my attention was piqued when she mentioned hacks. At the very beginning of her introduction, she states that “The debates around the role of ‘theory’ in digital humanities are debates about the relationship between saying and doing.” The theory is the “saying” and for “doing,” she brings up hackers as an example, referring to Stephen Ramsay who says that “…a hacker is a person who looks at systemic knowledge structures and learns about them from making or doing.” He describes hackers as people who see the data and the information and make something new from it.

If you haven’t picked up the hints in some of my previous blog posts, I’m into playing Pokemon games and if you’ve never played any of their main series games, I’ll give you a brief explanation of them. At the beginning of each game, you are introduced to the professor of the particular region that the game takes place in in the Pokemon world and after getting a short explanation of the creatures that inhabit the world and choosing whether you are a boy or girl (not optional in Generation 1) and selecting a name, you dive right in. After selecting your starter Pokemon, you travel throughout the region, catching and training Pokemon, collecting each badge of the eight gyms in the region, defeating the evil team of that region, and challenging the Elite Four and the Champion. There are other things you can do in the games, especially now that there are Wi-Fi battles and downloadable content, but you’re obviously not buying the newest installment to the series expecting there to be anything different from what I described above.

So now that you know the gist of the main series Pokemon games, you’re probably thinking, “Okay, so don’t the fans get bored with the same old-same old?” That’s very reasonable to think but as Griffin McElroy from the Polygon, “Despite the truly gargantuan amount of time demanded by the core series, there are fans who demand more — and fans who create more.” McElroy is talking about the ROM Hacks that can be found all over the internet. These hacks are simply altered versions of the original games. Some are completely new spins on old stories while others aren’t that much different. Some are just more difficult versions of the originals which can consist of altering the levels of your opponent’s Pokemon or even changing their Pokemon to make their teams more well rounded. A link can be found below which has downloadable hacks of games that were made for the Game Boy Advanced if anyone is interested in venturing them. Overall, I feel like despite the original work is not theirs, the ability to create a polished game that you can call your own is an incredible talent. Besides, the PokeTubers that play some of these games on their channels aren’t complaining.

Works Cited




Virtual Tours: Google Art Project

Hello everyone! It is a miracle I am here! My mom’s desktop has so many viruses it’s insane, because of that I wasn’t able to download flash and so what I will write about the Louvre will be from memory… unfortunately… I’m sorry (I tried).  Anyway, this weekend I read “Meaning in Motion “by Diane Favro and she argues that a lot of factors go into executing an interesting, accurate and engaging 3D model.  Academics can be limited by “availability of data, the technology used, time allotted for creation,” funding and more, not to mention the need an artistic eye. One of the projects they worked on, was actually a collaboration piece with a production company and that really helps with the look of things. While reading the article I thought it would be really cool it more Hollywood production companies were to get involved in this sort of academic work. Favro explained how often viewers in the audience would propose the idea or request that their be other walking figures in the virtual maps or portals, and while the graphics students would try over and over it never quite looked right and would distract from the buildings and narration. Favro states that “currently, there are no accepted scholarly guidelines for interaction with digital reconstructions,” I believe that a set or limited vocabulary and some guidelines could be very helpful so that a standard is created for what is academic reconstruction of a scene and what is fantasy based off historical happenings.

Favro claims that knowledge and understanding is forged and strengthened through movement” and that the “study of ancient sculptures and inscriptions must consider observes kinetic, experimentally rich engagement within the original physical context.” I agree with completely because as a artist I know that the way you show something is almost as important as what you are showing. Placement, height and everything like that has a huge effect on how people interpret what is being exhibited. For example, if an artist scatters all the paintings on the floor in the center of the room or if they hang them all level in elegant frames, the audience will perceive them differently and walk away with a different story to tell. If someone were to make a 3D model of a statue, it is important to place the viewers eyes in relation to where a typical person’s eyes might be. It would be really cool if they could add a feature where you could type in your height and then see if from that perspective, as if you were actually there. The UCLA students and faculty who worked on the UCLA project wanted to make cool bird’s eye views’ of the locations, but it seemed to break the continuity of the “walk through” idea that had originally come up with. What I found like it is the tour of the Louvre, which was really popular when it came out and you can see how things look in the context of the building. My favorite part about digitizing this sort of work is that now people who might be unable to fly to France (say the sick, elderly or disabled) can still see the work and better imagine how it might feel to be there  🙂

ALSO My computers having a heart attack so there will be no images for this post
If you want to see cool things, pelase look here:



Week Nine: 3D Modeling


In Diane Favro’s Meaning in Motion: A Personal Walk Through Historical Simulation Modeling at UCLA, she examines the advantages and disadvantages of three-dimensional modeling as means of historical analysis. Having taken Professor Favro’s class and actually having first-hand experience with her 3D model, I have experienced some of these advantages and disadvantages myself. Favro begins by citing Cicero, “wherever we walk, we set foot in some history”. She continues in her own words in context to ancient Romans, “A walk through a city was equivalent to, or even preferred to, reading a text. Buildings, statues, inscriptions, and urban occupants all operated as signifiers that elicited potent associations…the Romans imbued each place with a spirit or genius whose identity was shaped by past and future actions”.

Favro talks about the development of HyperCities which came about in collaboration with USC, CUNY, and community partners. The software emerged from “a flash-based flash-based mapping project into a robust participatory, multimodal platform that brings together the analytic tools of GIS, the geo-markup language KML, and traditional methods of humanistic inquiry utilizing Google’s Map and Earth Application Programming Interface (API) released in 2005-06”.

With improved modeling, came further challenges. For one, by the viewer sitting and scrolling on a mouse to navigate, the model relies on “ocularcentracism” as its singular sense (ignores sound, smell, etc.). Simulating space, speed, processing, and temporal factors is also very difficult. Providing enough cultural context brought up many questions, “Did the Romans in the Forum privilege movement or sigh over smelling, or were all aspects experienced in a fog of urban distinction?” Ultimately, the advancement in representation posed an issue that is pertinent to all of the digital humanities field in general; “If a picture is worth a thousand words, and interactive 3D interaction is worth tens of thousands. Yet there is not agreement about scholarly assessment”. In other words, we do not yet have stable criteria to approach the analysis of these moving, interactive experiences.

Although this is not an example of an actual historical 3D reconstruction, a story in Italo Calvino’s Invisible Cities really struck me as an abstract example of what Favro is talking about. Calvino’s novel is split into short descriptions/stories of seemingly impossible cities. The city that reminded me of Favro’s research outlook is called Zobeide;


Men of various nations had an identical dream. They saw a woman running at night through an unknown city; she was seen from behind with long hair, and she was naked. They dreamed of pursuing her. As they twisted and turned, each of them lost her. After the dream the set out in search of that city; they never found it, but they found one another; they decided to build a city like the one in the dream. In laying out the streets, each followed the course of his pursuit; at the spot where they had lost the fugitive’s trail, they arranged the spaces and walls differently from the dream, so she would be unable to escape again.


The story of Zobeide offers a conceptual example of formatting influenced space in reality. Space is informed by experience – how do we realize this in three dimensional space? I read Invisible Cities for a studio class in which we were then asked to draw maps of the cities we chose. I didn’t choose Zobeide but the representations were strong attempts at representing two-dimensional maps of a conceptual city. I would love to see how someone might map this city in three dimensional space…




Week 9: A New Level of Immersion


After finishing the reading by Snyder I was completely fascinated and utterly amazed with the discussion of virtual reality.  Today, VR has become an increasingly popular subject within the gaming community.  Most notable is the Oculus Rift, a head-mounted display that allows the user to experience a whole new level of immersion within video games or simulations.  Something many of us imagined as kids is soon becoming closer to reality.  Within the reading presented by Snyder, many aspects of virtual reality are described such as: the technology involved, the roles within a virtual reality project, limitations, and much more.  Most specifically, Snyder attributes virtual reality to the creation of historical environments by using examples of the Temple Mount at the Davidson Center, Jerusalem and Santiago de Compostela.  While I found these to be very interesting, in regards to their constructions, I felt that the focus was ironically one dimensional.

3-D environments have been created for some time especially if we look at the thousands of video games that have been released in these past ten years.  Although this has made video games much more immersive, there is still a lot that could potentially be done.  By referencing the Oculus Rift again, the device allows the user to feel that they are actually in the game.  There are many videos on Youtube that show individuals physically looking around and the game reacting in the same movements.  While this is quite the feat and as a result has stirred much anticipation for the device to be released, I still feel that virtual reality has a long way to go.  In the example of the headset, our physical environments can be limiting on our movements in game.  Looking behind you in the video game while using the Rift can consist of awkward physical movements, especially while sitting down.



Another instance where VR has encountered popularity is from the anime series Sword Art Online (SAO).  The show revolves around a VRMMORPG (Virtual Reality Massive Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game) called Sword Art Online and the characters experiencing this whole new world.  The individuals in the show use a headset that stimulates the five senses in the brain to become fully immersed into the game.  While this story displays many fantasy elements, it makes me curious of this sort of technology and if it will ever be feasible.  It’s one thing to put an immense amount of time and focus on a 3-D model but to have enough technology and resources to fully immerse and provide feedback for consumers seems far out of reach.

In the Snyder reading, the author discusses how resources and costs towards a virtual reality project can influence what can and cannot be done.  Therefore, if a game was to be developed in a way such as SAO, then it would need a tremendous amount of funding.  Whether it would pay off once the game is complete would also be up for debate.  Furthermore, I wonder if it is possible to capture smells, textures, and other stimulations and then replicate them within a game.  If so, possibly a “smell bank database” could be created that would have various smells captured so that others could use this information.  Otherwise, it would be costly for game developers to go out and find particular smells specifically for their game every time.

Although this sort of technology seems almost fantasy-like, over the years we have been able to achieve things that were thought to be the same.  Through VR technology, the digital world and our reality may soon become one.  For further insight on this idea, I suggest individuals to take a look at Augmented Reality (AR) technology if they are interested.  I am glad to have been presented this article by Snyder and look forward to hearing more developments regarding VR technology and how far it advances.



1. Lisa M. Snyder. Virtual Reality for Humanities Scholarship.

2. Sword Art Online anime show

Week 9: Theory and Praxis in Hacking and Digital Humanities.

To follow the path:
look to the master,
follow the master,
walk with the master,
see through the master,
become the master.

This quotation from a zen poem was taken from a “how to become a hacker” website. In the “Introduction: Theory and the Virtues of Digital Humanities”, Natalia Cecire talks about how the Digital Humanities is “undertheorized” and “the role of theory” in the digital humanities. Cecire explains that the “debates about theory” are debates about the “role of words and deeds”. In the digital humanities, theories are humanistic inquiries about knowledge. The article also mentions hackers, which was interesting, because I often associate the word hacker with information breach. I googled the word and found this quote from a how to be a hacker website: “Hackers solve problems and build things, and they believe in freedom and voluntary mutual help.” That is, according to Cecire, a “hacker is a person who looks at systemic knowledge structures and learns about them from making or doing.” It is also interesting that Cicere would note that epistemology about doing include collaboration. In relation to daily life, we use words to make theories from our own experiences in order to navigate through life. The way we form our theories about the world and what we do should ideally be the same. However, theories, as it is suggested by Cecire, have been divided from actions and became mere “words”. Hacking is a good example of a practice that have theories with immediate effect. Also, it should be added that while theories can lead to praxis, praxis can be theorized. The development of new knowledge comes from theorizing praxis. As the quote from the zen poem suggests, hackers can improve their skill by solving and building. The master being both the problem and the theory. Therefore, hacking is the praxis and the database the theory. The concern for Humanistic inquiry is that when the way we make theories by words does not result into a praxis and becomes ineffective. Cicere suggests that “…in its best version, digital humanities is also the subdiscipline best positioned to critique and effect change in that social form—not merely to replicate it”. This means that new ways of making theories in digital humanities can bring the relationship between praxis and theory in unison. Furthermore, digital humanities, being “under theorized” according to Cecire, can create praxis. The digital humanities, therefore, creates new forms of inquiry and new exploration of knowledge that can change “social order”.


Work cited:


Natalia Cecire, “Introduction: Theory and the Virtues of Digital Humanities,” Journal of Digital Humanities, March 9, 2012. http://journalofdigitalhumanities.org/1-1/introduction-theory-and-the-virtues-of-digital-humanities-by-natalia-cecire/

Steven Raymond, Eric http://www.catb.org/esr/faqs/hacker-howto.html. 29 November 14

Week 9: Reconstructing Medieval Paris



Paris Past and Present is a project of Professor Cohen’s that will make a 3D reconstruction of medieval Paris. It started last Spring Quarter and I joined this Fall. I am starting to learn how to use Vectorworks, but the other students, who include Tori and Haley, have already made the Galerie des Merciers at the Palais de la Cité (pictured above) and are working on the Lady Chapel of Saint-Germain-des-Prés. There is going to be a class next Spring Quarter to work on the project, but you can join before then!

I don’t know a whole lot about the project so far, but it looks like the process-based questions and product-based questions that Lisa M. Snyder discusses in “Virtual Reality for Humanities Scholarship” are fairly balanced. Each category is or will be addressed with different software. Vectorworks is being used for making the reconstructions and learning how the buildings were built, and Cinema 4D might be used in the future to present the models with better rendering and fly throughs. If I’m remembering correctly, Alec was working on the floorplan of the Lady Chapel and found that the measurements on the outside and inside of the building (somewhere around the transitional bays around the apse) were different. The emphasis is really on learning things about how these buildings were made that you couldn’t learn in any other way. By reconstructing a building, you can get into the mind of the architect.

At the end of her article, Snyder discusses how students have much higher expectations of virtual reality since they have so much more exposure to 3d graphics. Diane Favro addresses the same issue in “Meaning in Motion: A Personal Walk Through Historical Simulation Modeling at UCLA.” Snyder points to students’ ability to distinguish between the scholarly value of less visually impressive academic VR projects and 3d graphics made for movies and computer games, while Favro notes the exact opposite. Maybe student responses were different because of the way the projects were presented. Snyder’s projects are more process-based and the 3d models set up more modest expectations, while Favro’s projects are more product-based and set up higher expectations by being presented in the high-tech, theater-like Visualization Portal that promises kinetic experiences.

I think there could be a middle ground presentation that is both immersive and relatively affordable. In 1993, the groundbreaking computer game Myst was able to create an immersive environment with static 3d graphics and MUD-style movement (click on the left side to turn left, click on the center to go forward, etc.). Static images can be more finely detailed than images rendered on-the-fly, and the composition of each image can also be controlled to give the player the most beautiful and/or informative view. The sense of immersion came from the combination of comparatively better detail and the imposition of a slower pace that encouraged paying attention to particular views for longer periods of time.