[Humanist] 28.542 resonant immersion?

Humanist Discussion Group willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk
Fri Dec 5 08:41:22 CET 2014

                 Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 28, No. 542.
            Department of Digital Humanities, King's College London
                Submit to: humanist at lists.digitalhumanities.org

        Date: Fri, 05 Dec 2014 07:05:54 +0000
        From: Willard McCarty <willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk>
        Subject: immersion?

Somewhere I have a cartoon from the 1960s of a teenaged boy who constructs a
game machine, an XBox sort of thing, from a kit, hooks it to a television in
his room, then peels off his clothes and dives through the screen into the
Edenic world it reveals, complete with an Eve. Since then, as we all know,
the technology for immersive visualisation has vastly improved so that
compelling illusions are within reach. No doubt these will only get better
and better, which is to say, more and more compelling. What, I wonder, is
the scholarly future of such things?

There's a fair bit of opinion against photorealistic VR at least in
archaeology, the argument being that one should know what is solidly known
and what is conjectural -- just as in older forms of reconstructive
archaeology. But providing one could switch on or off indication of whether
bits of information are inferential, it would seem that a grown-up, educated
version of that teenager's desire for immersion could result in interesting
extensions to scholarship, if not better scholarship. As Stuart Dunn
indicates in his review of ORBIS in the Journal of Digital Humanities 1.3
(2012), these are not the same thing necessarily, indicating further the
possibility of new ideas of what 'scholarship' includes.

Is the word "interface" getting less and less what we want?

Veit Erlmann, in Reason and Resonance: A History of Modern Aurality (Zone
Books, 2010), makes a strong case for a different idea of reasoning based
also on the ear as well as the eye. In 2002 Marshall Soules, in "Animating
the Language Machine: Computers and Performance" (CHum 36.3), pulled in
aurality in the form of improvisational music as well as theatre, with the
help of Brenda Laurel's Computers as Theatre (1992). For a long time work
along such lines has been presented as pedagogical, for example
counterfactual simulations of history (from at least the mid 1980s) --
partially in order to find some outlet for possibilities that would not
provoke conservative censure?

What do you suppose the near-term future of immersive scholarship looks like

Willard McCarty (www.mccarty.org.uk/), Professor, Department of Digital
Humanities, King's College London, and Digital Humanities Research
Group, University of Western Sydney

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