- Anna Foka
Mekhane is the domain name for a digital map of visualizations about the ancient world. It focuses on gathering the following information about visualizations: Technological tools Purpose Ancient places Contemporary site of production Geographical density International impact
It is, in short, a research and a study tool for visualizations of ancient sites, buildings and environments. Why? Technology has opened up new ways to communicate and discuss historical research, often through conceptual recreation. A widely used method is visualizations. These often provide the means to communicate history to a large(r) audience, in a situated space (cultural heritage exhibitions, museums, scholarly installations on display) or online. Visualisations have provided historical insight into aspects of urban development and have facilitated critical discussions of the application of digital tools within the context of museology, or the narratives of digital heritage. In traditional historical disciplines such as archaeology, history and classics, scholars have further used digital technologies to a map and relate detailed geographic data to primary sources in order to perceive larger societal patterns, and to visualise places geographically and chronologically remote (In the field of classics see: Mahony and Bodard, 2010: 1-14; Barker et all 2010 and 2012: 185-200). The ample use of web-mapping applications such as Google Earth have changed the ways in which scholars perceive data; the application of contemporary web-based methods towards visualisations and geospatial analysis challengesconventional concepts of space (see Dunn, 2010: 53-72).
Mekhane assembles visualizations about antiquity in an accessible online map environment and offers researchers the possibility to study and compare these phenomena, their world-wide impact and the technologies that compose them. Scholars increasingly examine digital media as an important carrier of historical inquiry. Classical reception studies have addressed many of the complex ways in which antiquity is communicated to a wider audience; the precise analytical tools to discuss digital historical reconstructions have, however, escaped scholarly attention. For example, the archaeological aesthetic, presented as both the material remains and the processes involved in their discovery and analysis, constitutes a key tool for intellectual authority.
How? Mekhane is a study of the scale and diversity of digital projects and tools for visualization that currently exist in both popular culture and within streams of academic knowledge production, such as research and education. The digital age may be defined as a historic break in the nature of media and representation and emphasizes the unprecedented capacities for visual manipulability. Although technology is recognised as permeating academia and the creative industries, scholars of classical reception have ignored how digital technology can mediate (aspects of) antiquity, with the exception of scant work on game studies as a form of (hi)story-telling. By contrast, we argue that digital technology operates as an extra layer of justification that affects our understanding of ancient world aesthetics, being in itself a component and a lens for classical reception.