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Talking about Things: A Cognitive Approach to Digital Heritage and Material Culture Studies in Archaeology


This dissertation presents an innovative cognitive approach to material culture and the use of virtual reproduction in research, education, and communication in archaeology. This research aims to investigate the potential use of virtual copies of artifacts for knowledge production and acquisition in archaeology. Although scholars recognize the value of digital models for enhancing artifact studies in schools and universities and re-contextualizing objects exhibited in museums, some researchers suggest that these models lack information that is only available through real-world human-object interaction. This point opens up a question about the real value of digital object representations in both research and education. Studies demonstrate, in fact, that we do think with objects and that interaction with things is critical when trying to make sense of their use and function. The present study, done in collaboration with the program of Cognitive and Information Science at the University of California, Merced, intends to investigate how knowledge production and acquisition work through different media: visual examination, physical interaction, and three-dimensional virtual and material replica interaction.

This is an innovative interdisciplinary project that can promote the advancement of research and education beyond the frontiers of current knowledge. The results of this research can be applied to a number of fields, including archaeology, museum display, and modern heritage management. This project will also help to clarify the growing area of human-object interaction studies.

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