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Framing the past: How virtual experience affects bodily description of artefacts

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Di Giuseppantonio Di Franco, P  ORCID logo
Matlock, T 


This study uses a novel, interdisciplinary approach to investigate how people describe ancient artefacts. Here, we focus on gestures. Researchers have shown that gestures are important in communication, and those researchers often make a distinction between beat and iconic gestures. Iconic gestures convey meaning, specifically, visual-spatial information. Beat gestures do not convey meaning; they facilitate lexical access. In our study, we videotaped participants while they described artefacts presented through varied media: visual examination, physical interaction, and three-dimensional virtual and material replica (i.e., 3D prints) interaction. Video analysis revealed that media type affected gesture production. Participants who viewed actual objects displayed in a museum-style case produced few gestures in their descriptions. This finding suggests that traditional museum displays may diminish or limit museum users degree of engagement with ancient artefacts. This interdisciplinary work advances our knowledge of material culture by providing new insights into how people use and experience ancient artefacts in varied presentations. Implications for virtual reproduction in research, education, and communication in archaeology are discussed.



3D digital replicas, 3D prints, embodied cognition, embodiment, perception, gestures, discourse, artefacts, frames, experience

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Journal of Cultural Heritage

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Elsevier BV
This paper is part of a larger study on how people perceive ancient artefacts, which was partially funded by the University of California Humanities Network and the Center for the Humanities at the University of California, Merced.