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Shift the gaze …

… and New Perspectives Appear

Wanderer above the Sea of Fog - Caspar David Friedrich, 1818

Wanderer above the Sea of Fog – Caspar David Friedrich, 1818

Our efforts to bring a voice to historic places draws upon technologies and techniques from a variety of disciplines. We seek to amplify the effect of these to bring new perspectives to places long forgotten or hidden in plain sight.

Our approach to representing the past is informed by John Lewis Gaddis’ book, The Landscape of History. Gaddis writes, “If the past is thought of as a landscape, then history is the way we represent it, and it’s that act of representation that lifts us above the familiar to let us experience vicariously what we can’t experience directly: a wider view.” (p. 5)

Friedrich’s Wanderer offers a model for historians: “a sense of curiosity mixed with awe mixed with a determination to find things out – to penetrate the fog, to distill experience, to depict reality – that is as much an artistic vision as a scientific sensibility.” (Gaddis, p. 15)

Our work is guided by the following questions:

  1. How can mixed reality (Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality) be used in multiple contexts as a scaffold to facilitate information processing, and
  2. How can mixed reality be used to help visualize both past and present and understand the themes of time, continuity and change?

Visualization means many things to many people, for example graphical representations of datasets, processor usage, search terms, mechanical stresses in structures; in our context, visualization is a window into a past that no longer exists in the physical world. Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR) are tools that allow for visualization in a number of settings and contexts. AR provides users a view of both the real world and virtual augmentations. Augmentations can include text annotations, photographs, video, audio and 3D models, all of which can be geo-located so that they appear as part of the real-world scene when viewed through a smartphone or tablet. AR can also be brought into the classroom for visualization of places or structures that are layered upon a physical affordance, such as a printed map or physical model. This allows for the visualization of evidence that is separated from the learner either by time or place. VR is an immersive visual experience whereby all the content is computer generated and can be used anywhere, such as a school, laboratory, office, or home.

Over the last several years, our growing understanding of multimodal literacies led us to think about how visualization can support the teaching and learning of inquiry. Ideas have emerged among a group of colleagues from the disciplines of education, history, instructional design and technology, art and computer science that have led us to focus on how we can use mixed reality and other visualizations to support visualizing both past and present. Along the way, we have used this as an opportunity for our students to engage in the development of media and technology scaffolds as well as the design and evaluation of strategies for the use of those media and technologies in formal and informal learning environments.

Wanderer above the Sea of Fog – Caspar David Friedrich, 1818

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