History Education and Virtual Reality

My project would be a combination of History education and virtual reality.   With the release of the Oculus Rift and Gear VR and soon to be released PlayStation VR and HTC Vive, virtual reality is a real possibility.  While the gaming industry is the first to embrace this technology, many diverse companies are coming on board; including the medical industry and the military, spending millions on the creation of simulation learning technologies.  I believe the same can be done with history education.  I plan to partner with historians, artist, archivists, and game designers to recreate virtual open world history set pieces. Within these open worlds, users would be able to experience living open worlds with Non-playable Characters or NPC’s, populating these set pieces with period clothing and coded to a way that they act like their real world counterparts.  Imagine stepping back thousands of years experiencing the sights and sounds of the Roman Senate in a fully interactive environment, in which students could ask NPC’s questions and learn about the world around them.  This concept is not limited to History though; I could see many other subjects coming on board as well.  Imagine seeing one of Shakespeare’s plays being performed in front of you with a full period virtual make-over or having kids experience a virtual construction site see how math impacts the building of structures.  I’m not the only one thinking about implementing this new type of technology either, there have been many tech blogs predicting such technology such as  http://techcrunch.com/2016/01/23/when-virtual-reality-meets-education/.  In addition, there are a number of grants available to start-up companies willing to experiment with Virtual Reality, especially those that impact education. Some of these grants come from https://delta.ncsu.edu/deltawire/delta-grants-make-vr-reality/  and http://uploadvr.com/these-are-the-companies-enabling-vr-content-creators-2?.

I realize what I present is a lofty goal and with the $40,000 limit I will likely have to cut material.  That is why I have decided to focus on the creating a prototype build to present my base concept and gain investor support. After I have a base concept to work off of and investor support I will feel more comfortable going forward with the full vison of my project.  My prototype concept will focus on an indoor virtual environment because there would be less coding than trying to produce an outdoor environment.  In addition, I would only program around ten NPC’s with a limited number of dialog options to begin with to cut down time coding artificial intelligences.  I would most likely pick the Roman Senate like I mentioned before because of its relatively small indoor quarter’s it provides.  This would also allow me to focus on key figures and history and not require much interruption on the historians part because of the vast availability of Roman Senate meeting documents.  In addition, the close environment and basic geography associated with that of the Roman Senate would make the recreating of the 3D space much easier on artists.  Ultimately I would want to work up to a fully interactive Rome that users could explore and learn at their leisure however that could take months to years and millions of dollars of investment.

Interactive Research Map or How I Learned to Come Up With a DH Project off the Top of My Head

My DH project was borne out of a meeting with Dr. Schocket, during which I had few ideas and pulled this one out of thin air. For my project, I will be proposing a prototype for a much larger project that I feel could greatly benefit the historical research community. Essentially, my project will create an interactive map which will feature numerous research institutions and archives from around the United States. Whenever a user hovers over one the many dots that will appear on the map, it gives information about what primary source collections are contained at that particular institution. I believe this will give scholars a much-needed boost when it comes to pinpointing where they need to travel for research.

Continue reading “Interactive Research Map or How I Learned to Come Up With a DH Project off the Top of My Head”

Young Adult Cloud

I am so bad at creating things. Beyond my love for writing, I hate having to create anything. I am the epitome of a Pinterest fail. So, with that in mind, it’s probably pretty obvious that this assignment has been the most difficult for me this semester. When considering the purpose of Digital Humanities and what type of DH project I would create if I were given a grant, I kept thinking about what would be useful for me as a teacher and for my students. As I’ve alluded to in other posts throughout the semester, I do not have a traditional pedagogy for literacy skills in my English 12 classes. I do not teach whole-class novels and I do not teach the classics. Instead, I teach reading skills and students apply them and are assessed on them by reading books independently at a pace that’s appropriate for them individually and of books of interest to them. These books are mainly Young Adult and I use book talks as a way to generate excitement for titles and my extensive knowledge of the Young Adult genre to match books to students. Having seniors, I’ve often wondered about how students will select their own books next year in “the real world” without my book talks and guidance. I’ve created such independent readers and thinkers, but how easily will they be able to identify what interests them in the vast seas of a bookstore or a library? These questions are the driving force for my Digital Humanities project. Continue reading “Young Adult Cloud”

Preserving Fandom as a Cultural Heritage

I’m pretty sure my idea will be the roughest out of everyone’s. The first week “off” we had from assignments in order to work on the proposal, I kept spinning my wheels and hitting walls. I had a hard time coming up with something that hadn’t been done before, or done in a way that I could improve upon or repurpose. I was feeling decidedly unimaginative and un-smart in terms of Digital Humanities.

As I was working with Mukurtu for the CMS evaluation, I got inspired by thoughts of culture and heritage. As one of my research interests is fandom studies, it occurred to me that fandom is a culture (which contains many subcultures, depending on the specific fandom or ways people choose to participate), and fans thus have a heritage. Fandom has changed quite a bit since the Internet, and as many older fans are passing away, many of the older stories are lost, as are some of the artifacts. For the purposes of this project, the fandom community I will focus on are members of MediaWest*Con (http://www.mediawestcon.org/), a fan-run convention whose history dates back to 1978.

Ultimately, the final product I imagine is a website on which a CMS (Mukurtu repruposed, or something like it) for use by scholars and the fandom community alike in order to archive fandom artifacts (digitized photos, fanzines, correspondence, fan art, news articles, etc.), which would be available and searchable for scholarly research. Members of the fandom community could contribute artifacts themselves, but one of the best features of Mukurtu is the ability for community members to add metadata in the form of a “cultural narrative.” For example, imagine that a collection of photos from a particular convention costume contest was archived. If a community member knows something about the photos – information about how a costume was made, a story about a situation that was occurring during the contest, etc. – the user can add that as a cultural narrative through a text editor, thus giving researchers (and other fans) more rich detail about the artifact, which would ordinarily be lost when all one has is the artifact.

To begin, I will have to assemble a team of coders and scholars to adapt Mukurtu to the purpose. I am uncertain if I will need software developers or not – I’m assuming not, if I am going with repurposing Mukurtu, but I could be wrong about this. I would also likely need to recruit some fan community members for the development and beta testing phases – likely someone among the convention organizers or committee members who would have access to artifacts to be added to the site and/or be knowledgable enough to add to what is already there.

I would also need to determine if I am to assume that my institution will provide me with server space and a database to populate, as well as IT support, or if my fictional team and I are completely on our own in that regard. (I guess that’s a question for Dr. Schocket.)

This is about as far as I’ve gotten, seeing as this particular idea was just born Sunday night. I welcome any and all suggestions and feedback, and QUESTIONS!!! Anything would be greatly appreciated.

In the meantime, I plan to hit this pretty hard tomorrow and develop it some more.

The Anti-Canon

I will be honest: at this point, my digital start-up project is rough around the edges. Ideas came to me easily, but deciding how these ideas could be truly innovative, or innovative at all, was a whole different story. Over the past few weeks, this has caused me a great deal of brain-ache. Basically, I have found myself gripping my lunch tray in the academic cafeteria, staring longingly at the DHers table. When it comes to even pretending to be in the Digital Humanities, I don’t fit in. I am still trying, though, and I will share with you what I am working on.

My plan for my project is to create an Anti-Canon. It will be a continually updated database of alternative texts to those that comprise what we traditionally call the literary canon. The goal of this database will be to not only provide alternative texts to students and teachers of literature, but also to question the very idea of a solid, permanent canon. Read more about my plans…