Friday, February 24, 2006

Cave Painting

Almost seven years ago, I saw my first demo of a virtual reality cave at the International Working Conference on Building University Electronic Environments. At the time, caves were presented as the pedagogical environments of the future, almost as though they had to prove Plato wrong. Now classroom technology generally focuses on other forms of ubiquitous computing that emphasize "workspace" configurations for collaboration and the acquisition of tool literary. Despite setbacks for use in higher education, caves continue to be important in many aesthetic and commercial environments, in addition to their obvious popularity as ideal gaming spaces.

At last week's New Media, Technology, and the Humanities conference, I was impressed to see how far artistic ambitions for cave environments have come. Noah Wardrip-Fruin's presentation "Screen: VR, Text, Gameplay, and Memory" demonstrated an electronic text art installation at Brown University with some of the best documentation of a cave experience that I have ever seen. Screen is a reading and listening experience using texts, including one by Robert Coover. A user can interact with the writers' fictions by literally pulling their words off the walls and mixing them together in a tangle at the center of the room.

Industrial applications for caves continue to be important as well. The other night, I went to the Los Angeles ACM SIGGRAPH meeting, Snow Crash: Virtual Reality Goes Real where Jerry Isdale of HRL talked about the popularity of caves with geologists, particularly for those in the petroleum industry. I hope to discuss his pitch for low-cost VR with products designed for the consumer market in a future Virtualpolitik posting.

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Blogger Julia Lupton said...

Caves remain important in early childhood education, too. My daughter's best experience at Art Camp two summers ago was a cave painting activity that included decorating the walls of a small alcove using iconography and techniques from prehistoric art. Sitting around in the dark afterwards was a big plus, too! Cave painting seems to be the first Gesamtkunstwerk, for a number of creative imaginers who are directing themselves towards childhood and/or ludology.

8:28 PM  

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