The Virtual Basilica
St. Paul’s Basilica in Rome was originally a small church in the 4th century CE. It was expanded many times over the centuries, until it was destroyed by fire in the 19th century CE. It has been reconstructed and added to since.
The Virtual Basilica project reconstructs St. Paul’s Basilica and lets people explore it as it stood at multiple times between the 5th century and today. More than just a reconstruction, though, the Virtual Basilica is designed as a teaching environment and includes features that make it a pedagogical tool. Specific pieces of architecture are linked to primary source materials documenting them, users are given a variety of different viewing modes to see which parts of the building are well-established history and which are educated reconstructions, and students can even create their own narrated tours of the building to turn in as virtual essays.
The Virtual Basilica project is led by Assoc. Professor Nicola Camerlenghi and features the work of Alaina Arnold, Andrew Chen, Kala Goyal, and Lindsay Kusnarowis from the DEV Studio as well as many others. It has been supported by the Neukom Institute, Leslie Center for the Humanities, National Endowment for the Humanities, Mellon Foundation, and Roma Tre.
The Entangled Ecologies AR application enhances a visit to the 995-acre Shaker Forest, a property located in Enfield, New Hampshire, by exposing the hidden histories and ecological systems related to key sites in the forest. The application, unique for its use of AR beyond indoor or urban settings, will provide a dynamic historical narrative of the interactions between the various populations that have lived here (Abenaki peoples, and later, Shakers) and the forest itself. It will provide an opportunity for those that are interested in the area’s rich historical and environmental legacy, from middle and high school students to hikers to long-standing inhabitants of the region, to better understand and connect to the world around them. Entangled Ecologies is led by Dr. Damiano Benvegnù and prototype work was done by Andrew Chen, Kala Goyal, and Daniel Akili. The project has received support from the Neukom Institute’s CompX grant.
Being Seen: Audiences in Virtual Reality
Most virtual reality experiences focus on two modes of interaction: an interaction between a single user and the virtual world around them, or one between a small number of active users who are forced by the medium into communicating using pre-determined scripts. Very few, if any, of these approaches consider the cultural significance of the user experience. The result is a very lonely place–and at times, a hostile environment for those whose cultural backgrounds are not taken into consideration in the development and design and who also may be harassed by other users with no fail safes or prevention. This joint investigation of virtual audiences from the perspectives of theater, computer science, and film and media studies includes gaining both technical and phenomenological understanding of the impact of multifaceted crowds in virtual settings. It is led by Assoc. Prof. Monica White Ndounou, James Mahoney, and Dr. John Bell and supported by a Venn Vision grant awarded by the Leslie Center for the Humanities.