A New Experience of the Past: Virtual and Augmented Reality
Our endeavor reshapes interpretation, understanding, and knowledge by generating virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality worlds (AR, interactive digital projections placed over the real world). We create a methodological interpretive digital experience that places participants within a narrative of Plains Indian life, Indian-Spanish interchange, and the Spanish-Indian (Hispano) settlement of southern Colorado. Akin to a three-act drama, our project grants the public and researchers a chance to observe, evaluate, and reflect upon the cultural transformation of southern Colorado from the 16th-19th centuries.
Facilitating Reflection via Tech, Layered Information, & Multiple Perspectives
Our innovation is to use technology as a tool to enhance/expand human reflection. One, we create a research process and information framework that supports the multi-modal layering of musical, environmental, linguistic, social, and cultural artifacts to produce novel, dynamic interpretations of the past. Together, we build an integrated practice that binds our individual research efforts and courses into a whole and generates a new cadre of Augmented Reflection Scholars (undergraduate and graduate students). Two, we enhance understanding by presenting Native American, colonial Spanish, and culturally-hybridized virtual worlds that reflect new ways of perceiving our predecessors. In the most radical sense, even though we will re-create specific historical events in VR/AR, it is likely these “worldviews” will not appear (auditorily, visually, temporally) to be the same event. Put simply, we do not all perceive the same things. Three, we foster human reflection by memorializing — writing a new, augmented history — of southern Colorado by drawing the public into an experiential virtual learning environment. By commissioning new creative works, hosting in-person public events, presenting online events, and teaching a Massive Open Online Course (MOOC), we will promote a greater public understanding of the creative forces that brought the American and the European worlds together.
Reflection through Three Moments, Three Places
Using the Unity software platform and a newly-secured $16,500 grant from Unity corporation, we can deliver a cost-effective and widely-accessible virtual world employing users’ existing devices (phones, tablets, computers) as well as new VR/AR headsets. First, working in concert with Ute/Apache elders and local cultural officials, we will re-create communal experiences that are virtually projected on to the actual environment. During a “first act”, participants perceive a Plains Indian (Ute, Apache, or another tribe) settlement visually-projected on to the landscape. Participants will walk through the settlement, experience daily affairs, and summon detailed stories. Next, a 10-minute narrative will play that depicts a representative moment in history (for example, a religious ceremony or gathering) where digital actors (avatars) will encircle the present-day participants who are wearing their headsets. Participants will be prompted with “reflection questions” that ask them to consider their own and others’ intellectual and emotional responses to the experience. A “second act” will depict the complexities of an encounter between the Spanish and Plains Indians as they trade goods. A “third act” will present the cultural-biological mixing of Spanish and Plain Indian lives during the 18th-19th centuries. Through this three-part digital narrative participants will garner an enhanced understanding of this complicated human history.