Conference paper Open Access

Modelling. Virtual. Realities. Virtual Reality as a transformative technology for the humanities

Eide, Øyvind; Schubert, Zoe; Wieners, Jan Gerrit

The current state of the art technologies offer many people the opportunity to experience Virtual Reality (VR) without having to purchase expensive devices. This results in a rapidly growing number of different explorable contents, and overall concepts are also quite diverse. Looking at VR as a form of representation and as a means of reproducing narratives, many potential research questions also for the (digital) humanities arise. Analyzing VR from this perspective includes observing, exploring, and comprehending the modelling of virtual worlds. It is of key importance to consider the process of creation, which is a process of modelling done by different individuals with different disciplinary backgrounds. 
Thus, several practical and reflective theoretical Digital Humanities courses at the University of Cologne were offered in which virtual worlds for the narration of theatre plays as well as other narratives were modeled by the students. This approach includes the presentation of appropriate concepts to the students, guiding them through concrete cases while also providing enough space for new creative and individual ideas. For this purpose, teaching began with the adaptation of works originated in other media. Theatre plays were used as the basis for a first transmission into this audio-visual form of representation, focussing on the processes of media transformation. During the development of the different practical projects, a tension between realistic and symbolic representation, interactivity, storytelling, self- and world-perception, and individual immersive experiences emerged. 
This paper proposes bridging VR and Humanities, creating a valuable outcome through the implementation of virtual realities in teaching environments and through the reflection on the narratives and content in the process of modeling humanities. The development of VR applications as a process of media transformation in teaching will be discussed here.

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