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Über dieses Buch

How can we increase awareness and understanding of other cultures using interactive digital visualizations of past civilizations? In order to answer the above question, this book first examines the needs and requirements of virtual travelers and virtual tourists. Is there a market for virtual travel? Erik Champion examines the overall success of current virtual environments, especially the phenomenon of computer gaming. Why are computer games and simulations so much more successful than other types of virtual environments? Arguments that virtual environments are impeded by technological constraints or by a paucity of evaluation studies can only be partially correct, for computer games and simulations are also virtual environments. Many of the underlying issues are caused by a lack of engagement with the philosophical underpinnings of culture, presence and inhabitation, and there are few exemplars that engage the public with history and heritage using interactive media in a meaningful and relevant manner. The intention of Playing With the Past is to help designers and critics understand the issues involved in creating virtual environments that promote and disseminate historical learning and cultural heritage through a close study of the interactive design principles at work behind both real and virtual places. Topics discussed include the design of virtual environments, and especially virtual heritage environments, virtual place-making, cultural presence, the pros and cons of game-style interaction, augmented reality projects, and appropriate evaluation methods. Virtual heritage environments discussed in the book include projects from Antarctica, Australia, Mexico, Malta, Egypt, Babylon, the Netherlands, Cambodia, and India.



Chapter 1. Introducing Virtual Travel

This chapter explores issues and consequences associated with travel and tourism. We examine the disastrous effects of tourism on sites around the world, from England to South America, the issue of air travel, and missing opportunities for learning once one reaches a heritage site. So there are possible advantages to using virtual reality technology to create virtual travel, savings in cost and time, safety, minimizing pollution, for the pre-planning intended visits, or for providing situated information not currently available at the site.The interactive opportunities of digital media may help personalization and customization of the user experience. However, we have four major issues to contend with. How do we create a sense of place in a virtual environment? How do we provide for a feeling of cultural presence that appears to inhabit the virtual site? How realistic and historically accurate does the environment and interaction need to be? And how do we balance the value of entertainment with the need for demonstrably effective learning?
Erik Champion

Chapter 2. Virtual Environments

How can we increase awareness and understanding of other cultures using interactive online digital visualizations of past civilizations? In order to answer the above question, this chapter first questions the success of current virtual environments, and asks whether they are capable of producing a platform that supports the experience and understanding of place-inscribed culture. To answer this question, a typology of successful virtual environment applications is suggested. These include online communities, virtual reality travel websites, game engines, virtual reality used for training, and virtual reality used as part of therapeutic means to either relax or divert patients, or to cure phobias.
Impeding the success of virtual environments in terms of technological constraints, lack of evaluation techniques and results, and a lack of content-specific applications that best utilize desktop computing capabilities, and respond to user needs. It suggests that much more work needs to be done on not just usable but also useful content. Specifically, there is a large gap in knowledge on what might constitute useful and appropriate virtual travel environments, and how contextual interaction may affect our cultural understanding in these environments.
Erik Champion

Chapter 3. Virtual Places

Chapter 3 deals with the key issue, of creating a meaningful sense of place. This chapter outlines limitations of the ‘cyberspace’ theorists’ notions of place and suggests how these limitations adversely affect virtual heritage environments. A fivefold description of different features of place that may be appropriate for virtual environments is proposed. These five features of place are summarized as:
  • Uniqueness of atmosphere, selection of artifacts et cetera.
  • Some places in nature have the ability to shock or overawe the spectator.
  • Memorable places have the power of evoking memories and associations.
  • Some places act as either stage or framework on which communal and individual activity can ‘take place’.
  • Communal places have the ability to identify and reflect individual participants.
Combing literature and various creative arts suggest various components that help create the above place-experiences. Embodiment and dynamic attenuating environmental features as well as phobic triggers; social embedding and cultural agency; place as an inscribable artifact; and causal feedback are all suggested. I note here that there is a danger in automatically simulating all of the above elements digitally.From the point of view of the designer, a roadmap for designing for three distinct audiences and intentions is instead suggested. The three types of environments are categorized as visualization-based, activity affording, or hermeneutically enriched. The last type of virtual environment is a new addition to the literature of place and cyberspace, and will be focused on, for the importance of place as a cultural site is a central concern in this book. For virtual heritage environments in particular, we need to have a clear and distinct idea of what place as a cultural site and the related sense of ‘cultural presence’ entails.
Erik Champion

Chapter 4. Cultural and Social Presence

Unfortunately, the academic communities that respectively research virtual heritage and virtual presence do not often converge. One group has tended to ignore the individual differences and experiential requirements of participants, and the other has tended to conflate culture with society. This chapter highlights problems in the research community’s definitions of presence, and specifically distinguishes Cultural Presence from Social Presence. Although the distinction may initially sound academic, this chapter argues that it is of great importance to participants’ cultural learning, and that it affects the perceived authenticity of their virtual environment experience.Having suggested that the specific cultural aspects of virtual environments require more careful attention from the academic community, this chapter then discusses the usefulness and danger of adherence to photo-realism. This chapter is not an outright attack on realism, but an attempt to show where attempts at realism may obscure other important issues, especially in education.
Erik Champion

Chapter 5. Game–Style Interaction

Creating a descriptive and to some degree prescriptive taxonomy of place is only the first step. The next step is to work out the type and extent of interactivity required to make virtual environments both more engaging and more educational. This chapter discusses related issues in using game techniques for virtual environments. The chapter ends with a discussion of prototype environments that break down the magical circle, immerse participants spatially, thematically incorporate peripherals and interfaces into the learning environment, and it suggests new evaluation techniques and mechanisms that can be incorporated into these virtual environments.
Erik Champion

Chapter 6. Playing with the Past

This chapter begins with a quick overview of what virtual heritage is, given the information of the chapters before it. It then looks at 11 virtual heritage projects from around the world, what content they display, what interaction is enabled, and the cultural learning outcomes attempted by the projects. These projects demonstrate to me the challenge of providing suitable interaction with clear learning goals. I end this chapter by suggesting some areas of research that would help us to better communicate the cultural significance of the site.
Erik Champion

Chapter 7. Augmenting the Present With the Past

The spectrum of virtual reality was explained in conference papers by Paul Milgram and others (Drascic and Milgram 1996; Milgram and Kishino 1994). In the later paper they defined augmented reality as “augmenting natural feedback to the operator with simulated cues” but they also noted that it has been defined as “a form of virtual reality where the participant’s head-mounted display is transparent, allowing a clear view of the real world.”
Erik Champion

Chapter 8. Evaluating Virtual Heritage

This chapter is an overview of evaluation studies and techniques into virtual environments in general, and those that evaluate presence in particular. It then critiques academic papers in virtual heritage over the last decade, and argues that while those who design virtual heritage environments can still learn from the presence research community, that these findings and techniques cannot be applied immediately and directly.
This chapter also covers an evaluation into cultural learning in virtual environments, and discusses some of the pitfalls and potential uncovered by the Palenque case study. For example results indicate that incorporating game–style interaction while increasing engagement may impede cultural learning. The findings may be of particular interest to researchers involved in virtual heritage and cultural tourism. The chapter also presents lessons learnt from applying various evaluation methods, the complex issues of experimental design, and some of the limitations exposed.
Erik Champion

Chapter 9. Conclusion

In the conclusion, the previous eight chapters are summarized, the three-part theory defining three types of virtual environments is returned to, and I mention some possible reasons why there has so far been little research undertaken on the relationship between interaction and cultural learning in virtual environments. For cultural presence is not the same as social presence, and the ways in which we learn culture are typically interactive and hybrid; they are not easily simulated. I then return to my working definition of virtual heritage but now align it to international heritage charters and with these in mind I propose five aims to fulfill when designing virtual heritage environments.
Erik Champion


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