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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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