End of semester retrospective: Using Unity for digital humanities projects

Much like the first half of the semester, the second half of the semester did not go as I planned. I had intended to focus on building a tutorial space, with a particular focus on how participants could navigate virtual spaces. Instead, my semester turned out to have much more of a focus on editing code than doing the initial prototypes myself: David produced the entire first draft of the first tutorial room and I spent most of the semester tuning up the code so that it would scale well when we build the plantation experience. During this process, it occurred to me how similar it was to a writing/editing relationship in literature. Because I didn’t have to immediately worry about the creative side, I was free to direct my attention to streamlining the code and building an intuitive infrastructure. Most of what I took from this half of the semester relates to a few design heuristics about where and how to store the information we need to run the experience. Continue reading “End of semester retrospective: Using Unity for digital humanities projects”

Matters of immersion

For the fall semester, development of the Uncle Sam Plantation experience is somewhat limited, since we’re missing our 3D artist and historical expert. Without them, my development goals for the semester are to become familiar with the programming tools necessary to build the project (VRTK and Unity) and implement a tutorial room which we can insert before the main experience. If I have extra time, it would be nice to start implementing some mock ups for the whole experience. Unfortunately, I didn’t get as far I had hoped in the first half of the semester. Originally, I intended to have a simple prototype for a tutorial room before fall break, but spent most of my time so far getting an experience David built on Steam VR to work on Oculus and integrating our Unity projects with GitHub. However, I’ve learned a lot about designing in VR space and know what to focus on for the next half of the semester. Continue reading “Matters of immersion”

Instructional goal and supporting contexts

After carefully thinking about what we would like to do with the Uncle Sam Plantation simulation, the types of open educational resources that we would like to develop, and the manner in which these resources could potentially be used in a class, the dev team has come up with the following instructional goal and supporting contexts. The goal and contexts are, of course, not set in stone and will undoubtedly be modified and polished as work continues on the project. Continue reading “Instructional goal and supporting contexts”

Reference images for the sugarhouse

After looking through our secondary and primary sources, our team has decided to create a virtual reality experience of sugar production on the Uncle Sam Plantation, possibly during the 1860s or 1870s. I began research on the sugar making process and learned more in depth information such as how the cut sugarcane was fed into the sugarhouse’s machinery, which ground the cane into liquid. I also reviewed details about the boiling process, which took place in four kettles. I looked for images and photos of the sugarhouse machinery and floor plans. No doubt, the turning of wheels and rollers, the hissing and steam from the boiling process, and the sounds of the machinery grinding the cane will have engaging visual and sensory effects for our GCIEL team to incorporate in the project. Continue reading “Reference images for the sugarhouse”

Defining instructional goals in virtual reality

The Uncle Sam plantation project is beginning to gear up and, with the return of Sam Nakahira from archival research in the Louisiana State University special collections, we are presented with a mountain of archival material that needs to be assembled into a virtual reality experience. What does a receipt for $12 issued by J. Faivre, Piano Manufacturer, to Mrs. S. Fagot on 03 September 1859 for one month of piano rental say about life on the plantation?

To help focus our efforts, we have decided to focus on one aspect of plantation activity (e.g., sugar production) at a specific point in time (e.g., 1865). Despite limiting our focus in this manner, we are still left with a lot to consider, not the least of which is how to represent this all in a virtual reality environment. Continue reading “Defining instructional goals in virtual reality”

Summer research in Louisiana

Last week, I travelled to Louisiana State University from Grinnell to study the Uncle Sam Plantation Papers from their special collections library. It was first time in Louisiana and I was not expecting the humid weather. But I did not have to suffer too much as I spent most of my time in the Hilltop Memorial Library, where it was always nice and cool. The Hill library is so spacious and beautiful. Furthermore, the librarians and staff at the Library were all extremely helpful and friendly; it was easy to see they enjoyed their jobs and liked to see visitors come view the special collections. I had the best environment to work in. Continue reading “Summer research in Louisiana”