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.

Scalar is no longer available

Hi everyone I wanted to alert you to a problem with one of our Content Management Systems.  Scalar is no longer working and redirects to a dead website. If you haven’t started the assignment yet or were like me and wrote half the paper earlier in the week you might be out of luck.  If anyone finds a way to access the website or if it goes back up let me know.

Debates in Digital Humanities

As we read more into Digital Humanities each week, we see how the field has evolved and the controversies that have followed.  This week’s readings predominantly dealt with the credibility of digital work and how to properly use Digital Humanities in academia.  One of the main questions poised in this week’s readings was do digital artifacts really exist without a real world source or artifact?  This question reminded me of when Facebook went public on the stock exchange.  Facebook initially ran into criticisms by economic experts because it lacked any physical product in the real world and would be hard to track its “real” worth on the market.  Economic experts thought this would scare investors away and Facebook would just be another failed digital start up trying to get on the stock exchange.  However just the opposite happened, stock holders and company founders became billionaires and millionaires in a matter of hours proving that the general public didn’t care if a company produced a physical product.  I can see a lot of carry-over from this scenario and Digital Humanities.  If a piece of Digital Humanities is not tied to any preexisting commentary or artifact does it make it less relevant?  I think the answer is no because if Facebook has proved anything the general public doesn’t care anymore if something has real world backing.  While the ivory tower of academia might scoff at this notion it doesn’t necessarily make Digital Humanities less relevant.

While facts will always be an important part of academia, this week’s experts gave us much to ponder on how Digital Humanities could be used in education.  The first theory we are given to ponder is the Thing Theory.  This theory presents that Digital Humanities is a prototype that theories can be built upon.  An easy way to think of this is Digital Humanities is the thesis of a paper, in which we research and build upon a topic.  Another way Digital Humanities is presented in the readings is in the form of a tool or instrument.  Like a telescope is used to see the universe, Digital Humanities is a lens to see the wider world of the study of humanities.  The final theory we are presented with is the digital as a theoretical model.  With this theory we are faced with the question can computing (coding, graphical interfaces) be a model in humanities.  This theory is much tougher than the rest to grasp because you need some background in how computers work.  The issues being most people in academia outside of computer programs lack the ability to read code and don’t know how computers truly operate and to try and decipher this code into something that fits into the guidelines that is Humanities is monumental task.  Personally I don’t think Digital Humanities has one specific way in which it can be described and used.  Like most things in humanities, Digital Humanities functions better as a combination of practices rather than a defined methodology.  With these combined practices we have the ability to observe multiple ideals and are not limited to one narrative.

What is Digital Humanities?

What is Digital Humanities? The better question is what isn’t Digital Humanities in electronic world that we live in today?  Prior to this class I had never heard of the term Digital Humanities.   Being a social studies major throughout college I had studied humanities but not in what I had perceived in the digital realm.   I had been interpreting digital humanities for years without knowing the concepts name.  From the readings these past two weeks I’ve gathered that there is no one true definition of Digital Humanities.  A quick Google search would reveal that Digital Humanities “is an area of research and teaching at the intersection of computing and the disciplines of the humanities”.  However that’s not enough for the purposes of this course.  Digital Humanities in a since is a multitude of subject areas that intersect with technology and the digital world.  Something that is always present in our digital lives but not always noticed.  Some examples might include blog, vlogs, YouTube, social media, and gaming.  Not only the fields themselves but the ethics, history, culture, and science within them.   It combines the methodology of traditional subjects like the social sciences, history, art, science, philosophy, and math with the tools of modern day technologies.

The next logical question is why is Digital Humanities important?  Digital Humanities is important for many reasons. The world around us is constantly changing with technology as the cornerstone of this process. We need to meet the challenges that these new technologies bring in an ethical and rational way.  As a teacher it is important to stay up to date with technology because it allows us to be better connected to our students and transfer knowledge easier.  It also allows for better communication with students and colleagues.  In addition, it allows teachers to stay up to date of current methodologies and professional development.  It makes teaching a 24/7 profession and allows for more efficient data collection.  Throughout this upcoming semester I hope to gain more insights into what Digital Humanities is and how it will affect our perception of this course.  I am sure as we learn more this semester our definitions of Digital Humanities will continue to evolve and I excited to see where this course will take all of us.