Visualizing historical knowledge using VR technology

Lidunn Mosaker
University of Bergen, Norway

Abstract: Virtual reality technology is often considered a break-through in the search for the ultimate experience, whether it concerns entertainment, research, education or simulator training. The (seemingly unlimited) potential of this technology is also highly relevant for cultural heritage institutions, which have a long tradition of representing, displaying and mediating culture, both verbally and in physical exhibitions. Graphical VR technology provides the opportunity to experience the past in new ways. In the process of recreating past worlds, it is crucial to examine the complexities of visualization. In this paper I want to explore the process of visualizing cultural history through virtual reality technology, and take a look at resulting experiences.

A realistic experience in an immersive virtual world depends (among other things) on good graphics. The immediate visual impression has qualities that differ from verbal and reflected descriptions. Designers of virtual worlds need to be aware of how we perceive graphical objects compared to physical
objects and scenery. The step from two to three dimentions in the process of representation should not be taken lightly. In what situations is a three-dimentional representation useful? I want to focus on the possibilities and limitations of this type of visualization.

VR technology also implies new perspectives on the construction of history. Creators of historic virtual worlds face different challenges in the visualization process. There is a difficult balance between facts and fiction when considering the degree of authenticity, creating a correct representation with scarce historical sources, etc. What do you have to keep in mind when visualizing historical knowledge? Graphically reconstructed historical sites are a new way of experiencing the past. Computer-generated worlds of the past give the visitor an opportunity to explore the past individually, interactively, and in a direct manner. The examination of the importance of visualization through studying the process of representation of historical knowledge may lead to the conclusion that visualized reconstructions are a dimension of knowledge.

About the Presenter: Graduate student in Ethnology/Cultural studies at the University of Bergen.