Friday, November 06, 2009

Reporting From The Front Line

Sorry for not blogging earlier, I was at a place called Frideswide on the Western Front attending to the casualties and dodging fire in the trenches. And I'm only half joking.

Two of my great loves, poetry and Second Life come together with Oxford University's new virtual simulation which places the work of the war poets (including Wilfred Owen, Isaac Rosenberg, Vera Brittain and Siegfried Sassoon) in a three dimensional, immersive environment that you can wander through and participate in. You can watch video, listen to readings of the poetry, read facimilies of documents, and watch video as you visit a training camp, communication trench, a casualty clearing station, and a front-line trench. You can wear (if you care to) the uniform of a soldier or nurse, and of course you can pose for and take pictures. I spent a couple of hours there and still have more to see and listen to.

It's a very relevant journey for me, as both my grandfathers fought in the First World War. One talked about the terrible things he'd seen all the time: the other couldn't bring himself to mention it at all.

One thing that made the experience special for me, last night, was having the opportunity to chat to one of the researchers behind the project who was able to explain how everything had come together. (Thanks Skanda!)

You can read all about the project here on Oxford University's website, and find out how you too can visit the battlefield and check out the possibilities of this new and exciting medium. Why Second Life? As the website explains :
Virtual worlds create opportunities to do things that are impossible in real museums. By simulating parts of the Western Front, the archive can embed an entire exhibition's worth of content within in the space. This can be further enhanced by placing digital versions of real archival materials and narratives along the paths that visitors take. The result is an immersive and personal experience. It's not 'real' but it does offer possibilities for understanding a part of history that is now beyond human memory.


Chen said...

A great way to use SL!

Oxymoron said...

Are you saying you can wander around a battlefield like Verdun and chat with the people there in SL?

bibliobibuli said...

you can wander around the battle field, but the people you chat too are going to be other tourists like yourself or the folks behind the project when they are there although many will be in costume and so look authentic.

but it feels so much more real and immediate than a 2 dimensional website, especially when it is an experience which you can share in real time with friends, even those across the world.

there are so many possibilities for things that could be done with this medium. i would love to build a seksan's gallery, host readings there with some of the readers coming from overseas too, stream live music and have malaysian artists' work on the walls. we could also have listening stations, video etc to promote what we do. and we can have a bookstall where people can actually click through to bookshops to buy a physical copy of the books, or download an ebook either for free or for a price.

i'm really excited about the possibilities

Preets said...

This project sounds completely amazing. I'm a little obsessed with WWI and have always wished I could do precisely this, be a fly on the wall of that period without having to be in the trenches :-) . Thanks for telling us about this.

Oxymoron said...

Wow! Sounds fantastic! So how does one locate a virtual battlefield like say Arnhem in Sep 1944?

bibliobibuli said...

Oxymoron - this is the only historical creation of a battlefield i know of, but if the idea fascinates you, you can create your own. (tho you have to learn a few skills like building and texturing first)

BorneoExpatWriter said...

I'm mystified by all of this (and in the midst of marking a stack of exams); if you could tap into an area that you're writing about or researching for a book, it would open the mind to all kinds of possibilities and take you into areas you hadn't even considered.

I'll trade all these exams for a couple of hours in SL anytime.

I know my father and a couple of stepfathers fought in WWII, but have no idea about WWI. Strange that I don't know that, since I was able to trace my family back to the French Huguenots, and I do know one of them fought in the Revoluntary War and he was given a track of land in western Pennsylvania near where I was born.

Ah, just remembered that my stepmother's father did fight in WWI; even read an article about him on one of my trips home.

Thanks Sharon for the pleasant distraction, but exams are awaiting!