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Interacting With History
Background in architecture, (art history) and philosophy
PhD with Lonely Planet in VEs for travel and tourism
Taught interaction design and game design
Project Manager for a Digital Humanities Network (Denmark)
Professor of Cultural Visualisation, Curtin University, Perth, Western Australia
3D Cultural Visualisation?
Seldom Thematic & communal
Typically Unlikely Vital
Where historians wish to develop digital environments to
teach and disseminate, I suggest that the crucial issue is
interaction and the learning that results from that
interaction (Mosaker, 2001).
In order to improve interaction, designers and historians
could examine games and why they are so successful; a
considerable amount of literature has argued that
interactive engagement in a computer medium is best
demonstrated by games (Champion, 2008).
1. Games are great learning environments
2. Except for Cultural Significance, history and heritage
Good and bad examples
1. Conclusion: problems and solutions
Technology=barrier but not the issue: learning is the problem.
What historical principles are used, learnt and applied?
Inhabitants’ points of view (heritage) missing
Scholarly cycle incomplete, community cycle inextensible
Games for history
1. Play and and answer questions
2. Play and classroom discuss authenticity
3. Role-play with games, puppets, or narrators
4. Mod cities, empires events based on theories
5. Film events etc. using machinima tools
6. Combine images or panoramas with other media
7. Design past artefacts, events, rituals or customs
8. Create VEs using games and game mods or using VR
1. Playing History
Plague – Slave trade - Vikings
Challenge: ..the belief that it is
exciting to learn about history.
The game integrates learning
and playing in a way that
engages pupils and gives them a
concrete feel for the historical
time and setting
Solution: The game can be
compared to a journey through
time and space
Platform: Mac/PC, single player,
Technology: 3D Unity game
Playtime: Per game 60 minutes
Target group: 9-14 years old
2. Discuss and debate
Watch the movie,
‘Gladiator’ ..Identify an item
of material culture (building,
object, ‘thing’) that is
important to the plot and
structure of the movie, and..
http://publicVR.org OR video at http://vimeo.com/25901467
4. Mod cities empires
“We are interested in: the processes by which players develop
an interest in history, what historical understandings develop,
and if participation has consequences for activities such as
5. Film Events (Machinima)
8. Create VEs via game mods
8b. OR VEs from VR systems
Games: Pros and cons
Agency destroys historic causality. Simplistic
interaction, may be difficult for older audiences.
Helps teach interaction design.
Educational games: worst of both worlds?
Well-known & popular.
How to promote heritage & knowledge transfer.
Learn by trial and error.
Leveling allow for skills learnt
Often contains many bugs. Often platform
Speed, lighting, avatar design,
Support by the actual company can be slow, and
they may avoid listing intended future features.
Community support (internet
Non proprietary formats, changing game engine
code may require extremely good levels of
Education discounts available,
some games are easily
Expensive software development kits and
commercial licenses. Expensive as classroom set.
Take them home, personalize
modify and share them.
Not taken seriously.
Employability for students.
Games and learning
Today, electronic games are an important vehicle for learning
(Anderson, 2010; Dondlinger, 2007).
A game is an activity that
(1) ..has some goal in mind, .. the player works to achieve
(2) has systematic or emergent rules, and
(3) is considered a form of play or competition (Oxford, 2010).
While this encompasses “skill and drill” types of games, many of
today’s digital games are much more complex, providing an interactive
narrative in which the player must test hypotheses, synthesize
knowledge, and respond to the unexpected (Dondlinger, 2007).
Rule-finding interactive challenges, requiring judgment, priority
selection + direction towards goal completion (Champion, 2011).
Games are culturally significant?
For evoking +communicating historical situations or
heritage values we must deeper understandings rather than
simply memorizing facts (Bloom, 1956).
1.What is the cultural significance of what is represented and
2.Cultural presence, a feeling in a virtual environment that
people with a different cultural perspective occupy or have
occupied that virtual environment as a ‘place’.
How do we interact with
history over time?
How does the GOD view
interact with inhabitants?
(Glory of Rome)
Ritual knowledge: Match artefacts with events to progress through time
Memetic Cause &effect (Guess results or memes to progress history)
Extrapolate from clues in NPC dialogue
Role-play minor characters, “History” not affected
5. Counterfactual histories (create many possible worlds)
6. Augment virtual world with historical or current media
7. Sentiment analysis (observe the emotional impact of events on
8. Separate lies from truth to progress
9. Mimic NPCs (as a kind of reverse Cultural Turing Test)
point of view
Can users learn via interaction the meanings and values
of others, do we need to interact as the original
How can we find out how they interacted?
Can the limited and constraining nature of current
technology help interaction become more meaningful,
educational and enjoyable (Handron & Jacobson, 2010)?
How do we even know when meaningful learning is
Eric Fassbender: Macquarie Lighthouse
How to advance story
•Perceived social hierarchies
•Sense of being watched
•Intimacy and ceremony
•Changes in physiology
Vocal Joystick surfs the Web
Listen in as someone uses
Vocal Joystick to browse the
Eight vowel sounds move
the cursor in different
Louder noises move the
cursor more quickly.
The sounds “k” and “ch”
simulate clicking and
releasing the mouse buttons.
No realistic humans
No social judgement
No time to think
Gun based genres are commonplace
Weaponry skill can be easily leveled up
Typical single player
Alternatives to Violence
Reflexivity: A reflective space, where players are encouraged to relax and consider
the consequences of their actions
Performativity: The player, if in a class situation, could be asked to perform or
orate and present their experience of the VE
Role-playing Virtue Ethics: Take on characters in role playing games and see how
their characters change in relation to perceived development of virtue ethics..
Consequentialism: Players could be allowed to be violent, but the consequences of
their actions could affect their future gameplay. through the game.
Alternative Strategies: Violence could be offered as a strategy, but it could be
offered as a long-term destructive strategy.
Creative Uses For Weapons: used as tools to construct.
NPC distaste and disparagement: they discourage violence.
Biofeedback: Performance based on calmness
Expressive and embodied modes of interaction
Emphasis on non-violent competition
Players become morally accountable for their actions
Alternative game modes
Turkey Maiden Educational
Gaming through touch
Shown at Vsmm2012 conference
Chinese Taoism Touch Screen by Neil Wang
and Erik Champion
Opening - http://youtu.be/gFYG4zTn4Js
Game Hua - http://youtu.be/DiGDezTM8hY
Game Qi1 - http://youtu.be/jP9nfdUFDTU
Game Qi2 - http://youtu.be/orCga2CQBjs
Game Qin - http://youtu.be/iC2BGT5IbDE
Game Shu - http://youtu.be/dv_TOnl_sbc
Scholarly knowledge does not easily translate to audience knowledge;
nor does it always best engage the public.
IF we can use digital worlds for teaching +learning about heritage
&history, is it preferable to learn about a collection of culturally situated
past experiences, or an academic procession of historical events?
Smith: history as meaning the past, OR history as being something
produced by historians.
Given that even philosophers such as Goldstein (1964) and Gale (1962)
disagreed on what constitutes history and what constitutes recollection
of the past; how can students or the general public reliably distinguish
between the two?
How it can be or should be accessed?
Technology or evaluation is the not the fundamental
Skeates (2000) warned that archaeologists need to
reconsider their field as a communication medium, and
not just as a closed scientific discipline.
For while these books presuppose
a vast domain of knowledge,
a certain learnt yet creative technique of extrapolation
they typically do not cover the experiential detective work
of experts that visit the real site (Gillings, 2002).
Academic disciplines are typically book-based and do not
see that an academic publication is also a simplification
and metaphorical extension of the remains and ruins it
Ideally, Ves help the general public to
create, and share and discuss
hypothetical or counterfactual
meet virtually in these places with
colleagues to discuss them,
work in these recreations to
understand limitations forced on
develop experiential ways to
entice a potential new audience
to both admire the content and
the methods of their area of
Using media such as game engines to represent the past or digital places
that represent the future, it is all too easy to be taken in by the lure of
technology and forget to concentrate on enhancing the user experience.
There is also a school of thought in archaeology that views digital media
as purely a shop façade for the serious and scholarly past time of reading
and writing books (Parry 2005; Gillings, 2002). Yet if we avoid teaching
with digital media, how will the changing attention spans and learning
patterns of new generations be best addressed (Mehegan, 2007)?
Even if we decide on what we are evaluating, it is not clear how to
The ethnographic techniques used by researchers may be effective in
recording activity, but they do not directly indicate the potential mental
transformations of perspective that result from being subjectively
immersed in a different type of cultural presence (Benford et al, 2002).
Evaluating VES - People
Task performance (quantitative or qualitative)
Likert or statistical evaluation
Personal ‘sense’ of cultural presence
What do they choose next (exit strategies)
Excitement recorded from biofeedback
‘Teach the teacher’ et al methods
Collaborative learning: HACK4LT, VILNIUS LITHUANIA
1. Show design features based on
scale and senses
2. Reveal limitations or principles of
historical 2D images
3. Provide a heightened sense of
difficulty, occasion, ritual, social
proxemics (social hierarchies)
4. Afford a sense of place:
peripherality, centre directionality
5. Fix locations in the memory
iSphere copyright Paul Bourke
1. Game conventions work but do not necessarily lead to
2. Background research required for public versus scholar needs.
3. We lack interactive and immersive digital history projects that
are meaningful and engaging learning experiences.
4. Games as Virtual Environments may connect more people,
more thematically without competing with book learning.
5. Mixed reality has many advantages but few exemplars.
BBC Ancient History Section. (Undated). Death in
Sakkara: An Egyptian Adventure,
Benford, S., Fraser, M., Reynard, G. Koleva, B., and
Drozd, A. (2002). Staging and Evaluating Public
Performances as an Approach to CVE Research,
Proceedings of the 4th international conference on Collaborative
virtual environments, ACM New York.
Bloom, B. S. (1956). ‘Taxonomy of Educational
Objectives’, Book 1 Cognitive Domain. New York:
Champion, E. (2008). ‘Otherness of place: Game-based
interaction and learning in virtual heritage projects’,
International Journal of Heritage Studies, 14(3), 210-228.
Dondlinger, M. J. (2007). ‘Educational Video Game
Design: A Review of the Literature’, Journal of Applied
Educational Technology, 4(1), 21-31.
Handron, K., & Jacobson, J. (2010). Extending Physical
Collections Into the Virtual Space of a Digital Dome,.
Paper presented at the 11th International Symposium on
Virtual Reality, Archaeology and Cultural Heritage (VAST),
Hight, J. (2006). ‘TEXT: Narrative Archaeology: reading
the landscape’, newmediafix,
Leader-Elliott, L. (2003). ‘Community Heritage
Interpretation Games: A Case Study from Angaston,
South Australia’, International Journal of Heritage Studies,
Gale, R.M. (1962). ‘Dewey and the Problem of the
Alleged Futurity of Yesterday’, Philosophy and
Phenomenological Research, 22(4), 501-511.
Gillings, M. (2002). Virtual archaeologies and the hyperreal, in P. Fisher, D. Unwin, (eds.), Virtual Reality in
Geography (London & New York: Taylor & Francis,
Goldstein, L. (1964). ‘The "Alleged" Futurity of
Yesterday’, Philosophy and Phenomenological Research,
Jacobson, J. (2011). ‘The Effect of Visual Immersion in an
Educational Game; Gates of Horus’, International Journal
of Gaming and Computer-Mediated Simulations, 3(1), 13-32.
Mehegan, D. (2007). Young People Reading a Lot Less:
Report Laments the Social Costs. The Boston Globe, 19
Mosaker, L. (2001). ‘Visualizing Historical Knowledge
Using VR Technology’, Digital Creativity S&Z 12(1), 15-25.
Oxford English Dictionary (2010). Retrieved December
17, 2010, from Oxford Dictionaries website:
Parry. R. (2005). ‘Digital Heritage and the Rise of Theory
in Museum Computing’, Museum Management and
Curatorship, 20:4, 333-48.
Skeates, R. (2000). Debating the archaeological heritage,
(London: Duckworth), 109-111.
Smith, B. G. (1995). ’Whose Truth, Whose History?',
Journal of the History of Ideas, 56(4): 661-668.