Portion of a fresco showing market scene in which customers interact with merchants

Merchant and customer in the Forum of Pompeii, Wall Painting from the Praedia of Julia Felix, (Credit: User Wmpearl on Wikimedia Commons.)

RESCHEDULED: “Generating” New Ideas:

A Longer Term View of Linked Open Data for Pompeii

Sebastian Heath


This lecture has been rescheduled; the new date is Thursday, April 4th, 2024.

The lecture will take place online; a Zoom link will be provided via email to registered participants.

Registration is required at THIS LINK.

Grants end, projects don't have to. This is the third and last in a series of "faculty work-in-progress" talks that have introduced and then reported on the work of the Pompeii Artistic Landscape Project (PALP), which was a Getty Foundation funded collaboration between the speaker and Prof. Eric Poehler of UMASS Amherst. PALP now exists as a website at http://palp.art, which is the major deliverable of the funded period that came to an end in June of 2023. This talk looks forward and its focus is an ongoing project by the same collaborators taking place under the rubric "Pompeii Linked Open Data" or P-LOD. This work focuses on the long-term availability of reusable data, on developing new computational approaches to exploring that data, and on delivering new forms of public interaction with its resources. A theme of this talk and a context for P-LOD is that change is in the air. At the small scale, projects such as P-LOD have the opportunity to build ad-hoc interfaces based on shared data that allow anyone to explore large-scale queries outside the restrictions imposed by the long-standing model of a public website that only supports certain interactions. The tools to implement this approach are constantly becoming easier to deploy and use. At the larger scale, the development of Generative AI represents a challenging and potentially useful approach to investigating the ancient world and Pompeii specifically. There is hype. Beneath hype lie computational approaches such as vector similarity that can clearly be useful when creating tools that can help with discovery. Image generation focuses attention on the risks inherent in the hype. At the moment, it's easy to create anodyne images of beautiful ancient cities and ruins that have the potential to continue to mislead the public as to daily life - and all its diversity - in a city such as Pompeii. Can the tools of Linked Open Data - with its emphasis on sharing good and useful data - inflect Generative AI towards a more informed view of the ancient world? Approaches to that challenge will suggest new avenues of work for P-LOD.

Sebastian Heath is Clinical Associate Professor of Computational Humanities and Roman Archaeology at ISAW. He has an A.B. from Brown University in Medieval Studies and received his Ph.D. in Classical Art and Archaeology from the University of Michigan. His research interests include Roman archaeology, Roman pottery, numismatics, and Digital Humanities with a focus on computational approaches to the study Mediterranean material culture. He is editor of ISAW Papers. Along with Eric Poehler of the University of Massachusetts, he is co-director of the Getty-funded Pompeii Artistic Landscape Project.

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