Virtual worlds (January-March 2015)

Exploring the past  by making videogames

In recent years, a new activity supporting literary studies has emerged – a fresh version of ‘learning by doing’: giving the students the task of creating a videogame based on a literary work or trend. The British Library has set up a competition named ‘Off the Map’, in which students are invited to  make videogames based on British Library collection items, using game engine software.

In 2013, the project of the winners was a 3D animation of 17th-century pre-Fire London, from British Library maps. http://britishlibrary.typepad.co.uk/digital-scholarship/2013/10/off-the-map-winners-announced.html  The animators’ blog gives an account of the process http://puddinglanedmuga.blogspot.co.uk/

In 2014, the theme of the competition was on the ‘Gothic imagination’ in keeping with the ‘Terror and Wonder’ exhibition http://britishlibrary.typepad.co.uk/digital-scholarship/2014/10/2014-off-the-map-competition-winners-announced-at-gamecity-festival.html  – see video (on downloads see http://britishlibrary.typepad.co.uk/digital-scholarship/2014/12/two-off-the-map-games-available-as-free-downloads.html ) . In 2015 the theme is ‘Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland’ for the 150th anniversary of the book. http://britishlibrary.typepad.co.uk/digital-scholarship/2015/02/alices-adventures-off-the-map.html

Practising such projects raises issues in ‘spatial humanities’ – how can the places evoked in literary texts  be situated in the 3D space of a videogame ? such a practical attempt throws light on the theorical issue of imaginative literary spaces – are they consistent or surrealistic – and contributes to contemporary areas of studies such as ‘writing cities’.

 

Cultural heritage on mobiles

A trend which has been with us for some years as an experiment, and which is now gathering momentum, is that of  the mobile-comptatible educational resource– viewed on a tablet or mobile phone.

Som examples were already presented at the CIUEN (Colloque International des Universités à l’Ere du Numérique) in Lyons in 2012, where for many attendants they were a first revelation ; an app from the Ecole du Louvre was featured,  in which images of works of art in the Louvre collection were subtitled with questions which the students had to answer on mobiles, visiting the Louvre and viewing the work of art,  an exercise combining observation, questioning and interpretation.

Having resources accessible on a mobile means that it can be used on the spot, with the place described under your eyes ; it reverses the time-and-place scheme of exploration: instead of reading a book about a place (or studying it on a desktop)  in one’s study, and visiting a place at a different moment – distance in place and time–, the users simultaneously look at the app and at the place on the spot; it favours ongoing comparison between image and reality, and field trips as exercises.

We may mention the Palimpsest project of the University of Edinburgh http://www.ed.ac.uk/schools-departments/literatures-languages-cultures/english-literature/research-activities/palimpsest/overview     It combines geolocation and literature by offering geolocated extracts of Edinburgh-based literary works,  which the viewer can study on a desktop or in the streets of Edinburgh with a mobile; it twill explore the creation of the literary cityscape in ‘this fictional, poetic and remembered city’.

The ‘Open Virtual World’ projects of the University of St Andrews http://blogs.cs.st-andrews.ac.uk/openvirtualworlds/  include, among others, the ‘Virtual Time Window’ on historical sites such as St Andrews Cathedral: ‘The tablet connects to a virtual world reconstruction of the site as it was earlier in history and as the visitor walks around the actual site the position of an avatar in the reconstruction mimics their movements using Global Positioning System (GPS). Digital compass and accelerometer orientate the virtual world camera angles’.

 

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