DH 2019 Poster Session Presentation: VR Video Production for Interactive Digital Maps

Introduction

This poster session showcases a combination of gear, open source code, and teaching materials for producing VR video experiences that correspond to narrative GIS projects. Derived from multiple international trips utilizing the spatial humanities kit (spatialhumanitieskit.org) via Molloy College and Hofstra University, the materials provided at this poster session form a full suite of resources to create, analyze, and share the integrative possibilities of combining GIS mapping projects with VR video production. The following high and low cost kits will be available for faculty to interact with at DH 2019:

High Cost Kit: GoPro Fusion 360 degree camera; Sennheiser AMBEO VR 3D Microphone; VariZoom Chickenfoot tripod, and Garmin eTrex 20 GPS

Low Cost Kit: Samsung 360 camera; Zoom H4N Handy Recorder; VariZoom Chickenfoot tripod, Garmin eTrex 20 GPS or iPhone with Google Maps.

Storage for both Kits: Class 10 U3 micro-SD cards; computer for downloading and backing up footage, backpack with side pocket and lashings for tripod to be attached externally.

Code: See the “Deployment” section of The Spatial Humanities Kit (http://spatialhumanitieskit.org/deployment/)

Project Description & Framework

VR and GIS integration is perhaps most commonly associated with urban planning projects and 3D modeling. Esri CityEngine, for example, allows users to design and model 3D landscapes of entire cities, subsequently allowing them to experience their designs via a proprietary app. Contra 3D modeling, VR video gives the maker the ability to capture live events that correlate to points on her map, allowing for immersive experiences of present circumstances. Our proposed poster session is meant to enhance GIS related work in the humanities. We do so by showcasing how VR video experiences can correspond to map projects using GeoJSON in correspondence with basic web design. Simply put, we connect VR video to a web deployable map that is easy to use and share.

The work emphasized in this poster session prioritizes three approaches to narrative-based GIS projects that deploy VR video: mobile storytelling, accessibility, and site specificity. Each emphasize a sense of place that is meant to move beyond the 2D experience of the map through VR’s immersive possibilities. VR video augments mobile storytelling techniques by design. In his 2018 Storytelling for Virtual Reality, for example, John Bucher looks specifically to immersive theatre and the theatre of the oppressed to contextualize this feature of VR’s narrative potential. VR experiences ask the viewer to become a participant in an immersive digital environment–a “spect-actor” in Augusto Boal’s terminology–requiring “sound effects, performers’ voices, and even recorded music” to structure their experience (81). These necessities immediately lead to questions of accessibility in VR video production, insisting that the maker consider how auditory cues make demands on the user’s body as she or he participates in the narrative. Finally, VR video can give further insight into the place and time a map represents. Site specificity, a concept prized by mobile storytelling communities, embraces the a “location, including its histories, cultural conflicts, communities, and architectures (to name only a few) and makes these aspects foundational for the experience of the space” (Farman 3). It asks that the viewer become a participant in a narrative of a particular place and of a particular time, but also places a demand on the maker to integrate a site’s locative features into their VR video production in ways that might be accessible to all.

When combined with narrative GIS projects, these three methods for producing VR video create an experience of a space that extends beyond its 2D visualization. It opens the map up to questions of design and interactivity through which geospatial data might be experienced differently. Markers on a map become access points to scenes of participation. As a result, this poster session is not proscriptive in its method. It aims to feature a set of possible relationships shared between data, narrative, and production that faculty can take and make their own.

Interactive Experience

Our proposed poster session will offer faculty the opportunity to experience VR made for narrative-based digital maps and a tutorial for producing VR experiences with accessibility in mind. Faculty will also be able to access the gear in both high cost and low cost kits, maps to which VR video corresponds, and instructional materials outlining each piece of gear’s use. In addition, we will offer faculty syllabi, access to the Molloy and Hofstra University projects, as well as the source code for our maps.

References

Bucher, John. Storytelling for Virtual Reality. New York: Routledge. 2017.

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