[Humanist] 23.410 War poets in 2nd Life

Humanist Discussion Group willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk
Tue Nov 3 08:57:00 CET 2009

                 Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 23, No. 410.
         Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London
                Submit to: humanist at lists.digitalhumanities.org

        Date: Mon, 2 Nov 2009 11:44:38 +0000
        From: Alun Edwards <alun.edwards at oucs.ox.ac.uk>
        Subject: War Poets Exhibition in Second Life

War Poets Exhibition in Second Life

This immersive experience created by the University of Oxford attempts to demonstrate how effective it can be to expose items from a research project (the JISC-funded First World War Poetry Digital Archive) in their context. In the three-dimensional virtual world Second Life you can see items from the collection, hear interviews with veterans from the Great War, and watch contemporary film footage as you explore the area - a training camp, communication trench, a dressing-station, a front-line trench on the Western Front - as well as listen to readings of the poetry of the First World War.

Video taster: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ALkq-6aLo_A 

Further information: http://www.oucs.ox.ac.uk/ww1lit/secondlife 

Visit the exhibition in Second Life: http://slurl.com/secondlife/Frideswide/219/199/646/

Press release copied below for further information:

Virtual Literature: An Immersive Experience of the Poetry of World War One

With Armistice fast approaching an Oxford University team has taken an unusual approach in ensuring that people continue to learn about the First World War.

The First World War Poetry Digital Archive and the Learning Technologies Group at the University of Oxford have collaborated on an exciting new project in the 3D virtual world Second Life. The team believes this is the first time anything of its type has been done on Second Life.

Second Life is a three-dimensional virtual world where users can interact with each other through avatars (3D versions of themselves) called 'residents'. These can travel the world, socialize, visit museums or attend events, concerts and lectures to name just a few activities.

This project has seen the Second Life environment modelled to simulate areas of the Western Front 1914-18. Into this environment a range of digitised archival materials from the major poets of the First World War (such as poetry manuscripts, letters and diaries), including Wilfred Owen, Isaac Rosenberg and Vera Brittain, along with contextual primary source materials have been imported. These materials have been supplemented with new interpretative content and a spectrum interactive tools and tutorials, streaming video and audio effects. 

Visitors to the model are given a unique immersive experience where they can explore a training camp, dressing station, a trench network and No Man's Land. The terrain is waterlogged and difficult to navigate, rife with rats and littered with poppies. Moving nearer to the front line the clamour of shell blasts and artillery fire becomes louder and louder.

As visitors explore the simulation, they can listen to the voices of veterans recounting their experiences of the War, watch original film footage from the time, and learn about life on the Western Front. Within this context they can encounter some of the most powerful poetry in English literature by handling the original manuscripts, turning the pages of the poet's war diaries and letters, and listening to readings.

At the end the visitor is teleported out of the trenches to a teaching area. Here they are asked to consider the memory of the war, and to confront their own prejudices and stereotypes - was the war really all about trenches, mud, and rats, or are their other aspects to it that we now need to consider? Should it only be remembered as mass slaughter, a gross act of futility, or more a collective act of unparalleled heroism that ended ultimately in a victory for Britain and its allies?

Dr Stuart Lee, Lecturer of English at Oxford University, said: "Attempting to form the context of a particular piece of literature is a key critical approach in the discipline, which normally involves studying secondary material, or in rare case, site visits. By piloting the use of Second Life, the First World War Poetry Archive is approaching this in an innovative way. More importantly it is showing how new technologies (virtual worlds) can be utilised to provide more interesting access to key research and teaching resources."

The artefacts have been drawn from the highly successful First World War Poetry Digital Archive (www.oucs.ox.ac.uk/ww1lit), launched in 2008 to mark the 90th Anniversary of Armistice. By placing them in an online virtual model the project aims to make the collection more useful and engaging to a range of different user groups across UK education sectors, research communities and heritage industry.

Kate Lindsay, Project Manager, said: "Virtual worlds create opportunities to do things that are impossible in real museums. By simulating parts of the Western Front, we can embed an entire exhibition's worth of content within in the space. This can be further enhanced by placing digital versions of real archival materials and narratives along the paths that visitors take. The result is an immersive and personal experience. It's not 'real' but it does offer possibilities for understanding a part of history that is now beyond human memory."

For photos or interviews contact Katie Samuel in The University of Oxford Press Office on Katie.Samuel at admin.ox.ac.uk or 01865 270046.

Notes to editors

 * For more information visit www.oucs.ox.ac.uk/ww1lit/secondlife
 * The sim can be found on the Frideswide Island in Second Life at http://slurl.com/secondlife/Frideswide/219/199/646/
 * The project has been made possible through the JISC Digitisation Programme which has enabled a range of heritage and scholarly resources of national importance to be shared with new audiences. JISC receives funding from the Higher Education Funding Councils for England and Wales and directs this to projects which promote the use of technology in learning, teaching and research.

With best wishes, Ally

Alun Edwards  : alun.edwards at oucs.ox.ac.uk 
Intute, based at the University of Oxford www.intute.ac.uk
First World War Poetry Digital Archive www.oucs.ox.ac.uk/ww1lit
Address: University of Oxford, OUCS, 13 Banbury Rd, Oxford, OX26NN

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