Fotini Christia, Associate Director, Institute for Data, Systems, and Society (IDSS) & Ford International Professor of Political Science, MIT


Ways of Seeing: Building Digital Twins of Heritage Sites at Risk in Afghanistan

Ways of Seeing brings together an international team of archaeologists, architects, digital artists and computational social scientists to create digital twins of endangered heritage sites in Afghanistan. 

Archaeologists identified a select number of heritage sites at risk by years of conflict and current instability under the Taliban regime, and a team of Afghan journalists and artists with expertise in digital production were remotely trained to use drones for 3D scanning. Advanced computational tools were then used to generate digital twins of the sites from the collected data, as well as extended reality (XR) and virtual reality (VR) experiences. 

Ways of Seeing has produced highly detailed interrogable 3D models of these heritage sites that can be used for preservation.  It also provides XR and VR experiences of these sites as learning resources for a range of global audiences that cannot access these sites, including Afghan refugee children currently displaced around the world.


Fotini Christia is the Ford International Professor in the Social Sciences, as well as the Director of the Sociotechnical Systems Research Center (SSRC) and the Chair of the doctoral program in Social and Engineering Systems (SES) at MIT’s Schwarzman College of Computing. Her research interests include issues of conflict and cooperation in the Muslim world bridging the social sciences with computation and data science. Her work has been published in Science, Nature Human Behavior, AAAI, NeurIPS, IEEE Transactions on Network Science and Engineering, Review of Economic Studies, and American Political Science Review among other journals. For her research, Fotini has received support from MURI and DARPA grants among others. She graduated magna cum laude from Columbia University in 2001 with a joint BA in economics–operations research and an MA in international affairs. She joined the MIT faculty in 2008 after receiving her PhD in public policy from Harvard University that year.