“If a picture is worth a thousand words, an interactive 3D simulation is worth tens of thousands,” says Diane Favro, UCLA professor and director of the Experiential Technologies Center. Favro explains in her essay, “Meaning in Motion” the development of digital modeling and reconstruction of historical environments here in the Graduate School of Architecture and Urban Planning back in the late 1990s. The initiative for this research on digital technologies was definitely new and unknown territory for scholars and researchers like Favro which coincided with a generally undefined and unregulated environment to work within. The Cultural Virtual Reality Lab, established by Favro and Professor Frischer, attempted to establish guidelines with their five principles for creating these high-performance computing, historical simulations. Their five principles definitely adheres to the same principles and attributes of digital humanities, echoing key words like metadata, knowledge representations, and generally combining scientific methods with studies in humanities. Today, especially with the launch of Google Earth, web-based geographic computing systems are readily accessible and increasingly user friendly. The standard for historical representations are only getting higher and higher and a polysensorial experience for users are not only immersive, but also becoming expected.
A colleague of mine, Nikita Arefkia worked on this project, “Stellarscope” alongside her bandmate, Lionel Williams. The creative duo collaborated to incorporate an interactive music video/game to pair as a visual for their band’s track, “Stellarscope”. Designed as a generative process, players are invited to essentially explore the interactive environment and create their own visuals while listening to the song. Sounds are incorporated into the environment that can only be accessed through close proximity. The represented environment takes inspiration from historic temples and outer space, but is virtually imagined from the duo’s minds. The simulations of Favro’s historic environments immediately reminded me of “Stellarscope” despite the obvious differences. For one, “Stellarscope” is made for purely artistic value while Favro focuses her work on academic and scholarly progression. However, I appreciated that Favro emphasizes the importance of forming a relationship between motion and meaning. Acknowledging the Roman importance of combining physical movement and mental thought, Favro strives to create the ultimate kinetic experience that stimulates a user’s multiple senses.
With “Stellarscope”, the interactive environment incorporates this same crucial concept, by allowing users to essentially form their own personal memories and experiences each time they explore the game. Although the game was made with no scholarly objective nor did it face the challenge of documenting historic data, it does act as an example of interactive reconstructions that aims to give a polysensorial experience for the user.