A Contextual Engagement

May 20th, 2010 |

Over the last few months I have been contemplating McKenzie Wark’s idea of  telesthesia (perception at a distance).  In his writing he describes a third nature where each of us “no longer has roots; we have aerials. We no longer have origins; we have terminals.”  Our “terrain is organized with vectoral rather than social relations, freeing itself from the necessity of spatial contiguity.” This creates an ever increasing abstract world, a post modern world, that we now must negotiate and contend with. Global and local are linked, but we do not have the tools or the ability to truly comprehend how each effects the other. I see the digital humanities as an attempt to re-situate and organize information according to this new landscape. It is a breaking-down of the boundaries between disciplines, allowing for a remapping/recontextualization of information that connects our “terminals.”

Over the past several years I have been working on several projects that work within these frameworks. In 2009, I collaborated with the Children’s Media Project in Poughkeepsie, NY to created an augmented reality game entitled Walking History.  Working with students and several Humanities scholars, we negotiated and collected  narratives that have come to define this post-industrial city. These were then situated onto a map to locate them with in the urban landscape. As a player of the game you physically traversed the streets of the city while being provided an alternative layer of information using a mobile device. This provided for a broader, lived understanding of place.

Also in 2009, I created the Hyde Park Visual History Project. The objective of this effort was to create a dynamic relationship between the place, people and the visual culture of that area. Over a two year period, I worked with institutions and individuals to create a collection of images, video and sound that documented the landscape and activities of Hyde Park, NY.   Once establish the media was then used to develop multiple interactive installations that played between representation and reality. Video of a couple’s 1952 wedding was projected onto their former home, images of a hamlet were shown on the library that houses them, and the entire collection was shown at historic drive-in theatre playing on relationships between cinematic and reality landscapes. Software made the media reactive to the environment and people’s movements, thus establishing a way of understanding the unique relationships built between each.

Finally, I have been working to produce VR technology as a means to further conceptualize both object and space.  While not a new technology, the ability of this media to provide visual access to a distant place or fragile object creates the opportunity for a lived experience.  No longer does a the concept of a place have to be understood only in text or the flatness of an image, it can be twisted, turned and placed within a Google map to provide further context.

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