Erik Champion

Interactive History & Digital Culture

Abstract for talk at ICOMOS imagined pasts…imagined futures

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Talk, 2 November 2013, Old Parliament House, Canberra, ICOMOS 2013 conference

TITLE: Can the past be shared in Virtual Reality?
There is an interesting divide between historians and the public that must be debated, how to best use virtual heritage, and digital media in general, to learn and share historical knowledge and interpretation. Heritage and history do not have to be a series of slides; space-time-intention can now be depicted and reconfigured. Teaching history and heritage through digitally simulated ‘learning by doing’ is an incredibly understudied research area and is of vital importance to a richer understanding of heritage as lived. However, the actual spatial implications of siting learning tasks in a virtual environment are still largely un-researched. Evaluation of virtual environments has been relatively context-free, designed for user freedom and forward looking creativity. It is still much more difficult to create a virtual place that brings the past alive without destroying it.

There has been an explosion in virtual heritage conferences this century. In the last year alone, there have been calls for digital cultural heritage or virtual heritage by Graphite, VSMM, New Heritage Forum, VRST, VAST, DIME, Archäologie & Computer, and DACH, just to name a few. An outside observer may believe that such academic interest, coupled with recent advances in virtual reality (VR), specifically in virtual environment technology and evaluation, would prepare one for designing a successful virtual heritage environment. Game designers may also be led to believe that games using historical characters, events or settings, may be readily adaptable to virtual heritage. This paper will advance key contextual issues that question both assumptions.

Beacham, R., Denard, H., & Niccolucci, F. (2006). London charter for the computer-based visualization of cultural heritage. Retrieved from http://www.londoncharter.org/introduction.html Fredrik, D. (2012). Rhetoric, Embodiment, Play: Game Design as Critical Practice in the Art History of Pompeii. Meaningful Play 2012 conference paper. Retrieved fromhttp://meaningfulplay.msu.edu/proceedings2012/mp2012_submission_178.pdf

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