|Still from 360-degree video|
While I learned much about the site from the second video, I didn’t have a feeling of participation. I was being lectured and informed, and my gaze was always being directed and constrained by what the creators wanted me to experience. It’s not a remarkable insight because that’s how pretty much all visual media is presented. However, the contrast with the simple joy of standing quietly in the midst of all the action, not being spoken to and not having my gaze pointed in certain directions couldn’t be stronger. I’m not suggesting that the immersive 360-degree video is the better experience (or that it should supersede the traditional approach), merely that the two together create an impact greater than the sum of the parts. Together they allowed an intellectual and emotional response to the site that neither offered individually. This is important because now – when archaeology as a taught subject is under threat like never before – outreach will need to build on both of these aspects to attract both students and wider public support. My only sadness is that although the Cambridge YouTube channel appears to have several hundred regular videos, this is the only 360 one. If feels like this was a once-off experiment and abandoned. This is unfortunate as the technology (both for recording and viewing) is continually improving and becoming more affordable. For both practicing field archaeologists and the interested public I’d ask you to look at these videos and ask which one makes you more connected to the site – which makes you feel more engaged? If the answer is ‘the 360 degree one’, shouldn’t we be making more of these?
You can view this 360 degree video on an ordinary browser or on the dedicated YouTube app for your smartphone. However, for best results we recommend the more immersive experience that comes with an Oculus/Google Cardboard headset. If you’re feeling the love, go check out my Archaeology 360 YouTube channel [here]