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Oxford University’s virtual First World War site opens in Second Life

by Richard Elen on 1 Nov, 2009

in Art, History, Science & Technology

A view of the simulated Western Front environment

I’d like to draw your atten­tion to the fol­low­ing press release regard­ing the open­ing of the Sec­ond Life pres­ence of Oxford University’s First World War Poet­ry Dig­i­tal Archive. I was involved in record­ing some of the audio for this project, includ­ing sev­er­al poet­ry read­ings, tuto­ri­als and the intro­duc­tion and epi­logue to the instal­la­tion. More details here; video at foot of this arti­cle.

An excit­ing new project in inter­ac­tive edu­ca­tion will launch on 2nd Novem­ber 2009, draw­ing togeth­er the resources and exper­tise of the Uni­ver­si­ty of Oxford, and the pos­si­bil­i­ties for immer­sion and inter­ac­tiv­i­ty offered by the vir­tu­al world of Sec­ond Life.

The First World War Poet­ry Dig­i­tal Archive and the Learn­ing Tech­nolo­gies Group at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Oxford have col­lab­o­rat­ed to bring togeth­er a wealth of digi­tised archival mate­r­i­al from the First World War into an envi­ron­ment that allows this pow­er­ful mate­r­i­al to be explored and expe­ri­enced in a rad­i­cal­ly new way.

“The aim of the ini­tia­tive is to place the poet­ry of the Great War in con­text,” explains Stu­art Lee, Lec­tur­er in Eng­lish at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Oxford, “It allows the vis­i­tors to the exhi­bi­tion to visu­alise archival mate­ri­als in an envi­ron­ment that fos­ters deep­er under­stand­ings. Vis­i­tors also have the oppor­tu­ni­ty to take advan­tage of the social and inter­ac­tive aspects that the envi­ron­ment offers.”

The project has import­ed into the Sec­ond Life envi­ron­ment a range of digi­tised archival mate­ri­als from the major poets of the First World War (includ­ing poet­ry man­u­scripts, let­ters and diaries) along with con­tex­tu­al pri­ma­ry source mate­ri­als.  These have been posi­tioned with­in an envi­ron­ment which has been mod­elled to rep­re­sent areas of the West­ern Front, 1914 — 1918.

The mate­ri­als have been sup­ple­ment­ed with new inter­pre­ta­tive con­tent and a spec­trum of inter­ac­tive tools and tuto­ri­als, stream­ing video and audio effects to cre­ate a vivid immer­sive expe­ri­ence that is, accord­ing to vis­i­tors, deeply mov­ing.

“I had, of course, read about the First World War, and seen archive news footage too,” says Saf­fia Wid­der­shins, a Sec­ond Life res­i­dent.  “But to have the feel­ing of walk­ing along nar­row trench­es on duck­boards half cov­ered in mud, to see the dugouts, or to stand in a dress­ing sta­tion, hear­ing the voic­es of peo­ple who had been there describ­ing their own expe­ri­ences – this is all incred­i­bly pow­er­ful.”

There will be a Sec­ond Life Press Launch at 4.30am SLT (12.30 UK time) and again at 2pm SLT (22:00 UK time) on Mon­day 2nd Novem­ber. Come to the land­ing point at: http://slurl.com/secondlife/Frideswide/219/199/646/ and take the TP to The­atre.

The instal­la­tion will be open for explo­ration from 2am Mon­day 2nd Novem­ber 2009.  We ask vis­i­tors to pre­serve the atmos­phere of this envi­ron­ment by wear­ing the cloth­ing pro­vid­ed at the land­ing area.

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