Why it’s OK to say “I don’t know”

Recently I had a friend from Turkey email me about 3D in archaeology and he asked me if working with archaeological material that you are not familiar with makes your work superficial. My opinion on this is that trying to achieve a very high level in graphics, let alone applying it to a theoretical series of sites/periods is a very difficult task and there is going to be a very steep learning curve. Becoming ‘proficient’ and then moving on from that and taking your work to the next level is also a big difference in time investment. Not everyone wishes to be a photorealistic visualiser, some only want to use 3D as a way of analysing space and as a research driven tool to aid in the discussion of theoretical approaches, so a complex spectrum of time investment and split focuses begins to appear when you consider what your ambitions are.

For me personally, I have chosen to aim for a very technical general level, which requires constant revison and learning of new software as well as keeping up to date with practices and techniques. It is very difficult to apply this to archaeology without the help of other people and I don’t think that there is any shame in being open with your work. Ironically I think that the issue with 3D in archaeology is that for too long people have viewed those that implement it as inherently scientific, or upon a pedastal of knowledge. For me that isn’t the case at all. I think it is necessary to make it very clear when your knowledge is lacking and to integrate into this process people who you can truly rely upon to provide you with up to date research and insights that you cannot shoulder on your own.

I have been working on a multitude of different sites, periods and artifacts and it is not feasible to be an expert on everything and I think that it isn’t efficient to be trying to expect to be if your goal is to produce very high quality imagery that requires intense time investment. Working alongside other people in a transparent process for me is very important and it is why this year I will be putting more and more time into not just documenting what I do, but also why and how. What I take from my background in archaeology isn’t the expectation that I should become controlling over the research that goes into my models, instead I look to apply the general analytical processes to each project I am involved in.

I think in conclusion it becomes much easier to work out where you should be theoretically and technically once you work out what it is you want from your use of any technical tool. Once you have established that and realize that not only can you be open about your questions, but that in fact the communication and the process is actually very important in itself, it becomes very liberating to be able to say “I don’t know”. Part of creating models in the first place is to visualise and develop interpretations in a new way and to think in different concepts and these are often uncertain.

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