An artifact is also a term to refer to the little pieces of graphics that get left behind when a graphic object moves or is redrawn. The program perhaps has a bug, or more likely, is in development (or your monitor is conking out). Artifacts sometimes also appear in 3d rendered scenes, where the graphics engine may have overlooked a particular hidden surface or texture.

In RUP and other processes an artifact is something that is produced, modified or used by the process, usually a document or a piece of software.

All of the definitions of this word that apply to image compression, scientific experimentation, and Rational Unified Processes skirt around the more general definition of this term.

An artifact is something that is made by humans -- not simply in the anthropological sense, but generally, in all contexts.

Lossage in image compression is an artifact resulting from the application of a human-made algorithm; the true image* is distorted indirectly by the programmer.

In scientific experiments, artifacts can be from several sources, usually related to the observation of the primary data (mis-calibrated equipment, etc.) but can also be due to environmental factors (EM radiation from overhead fluorescent lights, heavy metal ions in laboratory water, etc.). In short, anything which obscures the observation of the true phenomenon of study is an artifact.*

Of course, anthropologically, anything that humans make and leave behind is an artifact. In this sense, bones and skeletal leavings, ancient as they may be, are not truly artifacts: they are remains.

* This usage brings up some thorny philosophical issues. For example, what, exactly, is a "true" image? Can something so abstract really exist if all of our attempts to transfer and manipulate it eventually lead to something which is not the true image? Similarly, in science, what is the "true" phenomenon being observed? If our equipment interferes with it, can we ever be sure of what we're seeing? Perhaps this is redressed by considering the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principal: We inevitably change anything we try to observe (or apply JPEG compression to). I also think that Jean-Paul Sartre and others spent a great deal of time thinking about this problem. But that is best left for another node.

Ar"ti*fact (?), n. [L. ars, artis, art + facere, factum, to make.]



A product of human workmanship; -- applied esp. to the simpler products of aboriginal art as distinguished from natural objects.



A structure or appearance in protoplasm due to death or the use of reagents and not present during life.


© Webster 1913.

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