19.549 VR scholarly editions

From: Humanist Discussion Group (by way of Willard McCarty willard.mccarty_at_kcl.ac.uk>
Date: Sat, 7 Jan 2006 07:37:04 +0000

               Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 19, No. 549.
       Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London
                     Submit to: humanist_at_princeton.edu

         Date: Sat, 07 Jan 2006 07:28:03 +0000
         From: "Alan Liu" <ayliu_at_english.ucsb.edu>
         Subject: RE: 19.544 VR scholarly editions

One might extend this discussion in two directions, each of which alters--or
redefines--the emphasis on "immersion" so that our hypothetical VR edition
does not necessarily tend toward what Julia so deftly sketches as an
n-dimensional variorum.

          (1) We might think instead in terms of augmented reality rather than
virtual reality. The short videos of the Magic Book device in action at
http://www.hitl.washington.edu/magicbook/ give good sense of how an AR
edition might work--overlaying a physical book or environment (e.g., a
museum installation) with measured, controllable supplements of information.
Something like this experience also characterizes the Google Earth product
on the 2D screen, where one can turn on or off layers of supplementary
location information (e.g., schools, streets, etc.). It may be that
"augmentation" is a more suitable paradigm in a scholarly context because it
suggests an analytical, differential, and selective mode of "immersion."

          (2) I suggested casually at one point in my _Laws of Cool_ book that
"An instructor, for example, could take students into an immersive CAVE
virtual reality environment to walk the Lakes with an interactive William
Wordsworth 'bot.'" In retrospect, that sentence conflates two paradigms.
One might single out here the notion of a limited-purpose
expert-intelligence bot, one programmed to respond in selected situations
(e.g., dramatizing a pivotal moment in a novel) in such as a way as to
demonstrate the constraints--historical, social, moral, cultural,
etc.--under which the character acts. ("Constraints" here is informed by
Brenda Laurel's theory of interface design in _Computers as Theatre_. The
notion of role-playing characters in novels is informed by Jerome McGann and
Johanna Drucker's Ivanhoe Game,
http://www.speculativecomputing.org/ivanhoe/). The paradigm of the bot
places the emphasis less on immersion than on interaction, defined in this
case as temporally or narratively sequenced doses of constraints able to
teach (inform) about "reality" (constraint).

          Incidentally, Neal Stephenson's novel, _The Diamond Age, or, A Young
Lady's Illustrated Primer_ (1995) contains as one of its central elements a
fine fantasia of how an interactive, immersive "book" would work in

> -----Original Message-----
> From: Humanist Discussion Group
> [mailto:humanist_at_Princeton.EDU] On Behalf Of Humanist
> Discussion Group (by way of Willard McCarty
> <willard.mccarty_at_kcl.ac.uk>)
> Sent: Friday, January 06, 2006 2:31 AM
> To: humanist_at_Princeton.EDU
> >
> Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 19, No. 544.
> Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London
> www.kcl.ac.uk/humanities/cch/humanist/
> www.princeton.edu/humanist/
> Submit to: humanist_at_princeton.edu
> Date: Fri, 06 Jan 2006 06:25:17 +0000
> From: Julia Flanders <Julia_Flanders_at_Brown.edu>
> Subject: Re: 19.530 VR scholarly editions
> Although difficult to achieve in practice, for purposes of
> this thought experiment it's worth entertaining in theory the
> idea that a VR edition is immersive precisely to the degree
> that it can strive to represent *the entire structure of
> readings* that constitute the textual field of the edition.
> We might think of such a structure as existing in
> n-dimensional space; we can think of the conventional
> scholarly edition format as a sort of projection of that
> space in fewer dimensions (as a hypercube can be imperfectly
> represented by a line drawing in two dimensions). VR might
> not get us the full distance, but it might prove somewhat
> more capable of representing that higher dimensionality.
> Being truly immersed in such a structure (rather than in the
> diegetic narrative world of the text) would be a very
> different kind of experience--quintessentially scholarly, one
> might say--and may not really be possible for any but true
> scholarly idiot savants whose minds are capable of holding
> all that information in play at once.
> (Sort of like building a DOM of the text in your head.) But
> if it is conceivable, I suspect that only some sort of VR
> interface is ever likely to be represent it in practice: the
> book with its footnotes is no help in doing this, and even
> the digital edition with the plenitude of links and
> alternative views really just makes things a bit more
> convenient--it doesn't help us make that quantum leap towards
> a holistic view. (That is, it's a difference of degree, not
> of kind, from a conventional print edition.) The VR edition
> I'm imagining would be different in kind, because it would be
> attempting to represent the structure of textual variation as
> an immersive space, rather than as a set of points and
> threads from which one's own mind can imperfectly perceive
> structure, little by little.
> But it might make one's head explode!
> Julia Flanders
> <Julia_Flanders_at_Brown.edu>
Received on Sat Jan 07 2006 - 02:57:43 EST

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