Augmented Reflections of History, Culture, and Environment: Experiencing the Interchange of the Plains Indians and Spaniards in Southern Colorado, 1500-1800 CE

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A call for collaborators and co-principal investigators

A New Experience of the Past: Virtual and Augmented Reality

Augmented Reflections of History, Culture, and Environment reshapes our experience with environmental knowledge, cultural understanding, and historical interpretation by generating augmented and virtual reality worlds. We create an interpretive digital experience that places viewers within a narrative of Plains Indian life, the positive and negative moments of Indian-Spanish interchange, and the Spanish-mestizo settlement of southern Colorado. Akin to a three-act drama, our project grants the public the opportunity to relive the social and cultural transformation of southern Colorado from the late 16th through 18th centuries.

Imagining what could be created: A scene selection from our prior work, Virtual Plasencia (Spain)

Why and How? Facilitating Human Reflection via Technology

Our project is innovative because it recenters humanity’s perspective about and purpose for using technology. Technology is not simply for entertainment, information dissemination, and communication. Our project prioritizes a deeply important aspect of the human experience — our profound need to reflect on history, culture, and the environment. We will foster human reflection to facilitate a greater public understanding of the creative destruction, and all of its ambiguities, that brought two worlds together — the American and the European. We will garner new insights across the spectrum of the liberal arts and quadrivium because ours is an interdisciplinary Annales School investigation that aims to understand the “whole” by employing all of our specialties.

Reflection through Three Moments, Three Places

Using low-cost Microsoft Hololens/Samsung Gear VR/Google VR technology, our viewers will directly experience three places and moments in time. First, we take viewers to Plains Indian life as it might have been at a site like the present-day Heller Center grounds. During a “first act”, viewers will perceive a Plains Indian settlement visually-projected on to the actual landscape (augmented reality). Viewers will walk into the settlement and listen and watch the affairs of life and access a range of stories, data, and analysis that was created by our scholarly experts and community partners. Subsequently, a 10-minute digital narrative will play out within this historic recreation of indigenous Colorado. Digital actors (avatars) — perhaps performing the spring religious Bear Dance ceremony — will encircle the present-day viewers wearing their augmented reality headsets. Our viewers will spatially, visually, and auditorially experience the moment and be prompted with “reflection questions” that ask them to ponder intellectual and emotional responses. A “second act” will depict the complexities of linguistic, cultural, and trading relations in an encounter between Spanish conquistadors/settlers and Plains Indians. A “third act” will present the formation of the mestizaje, or cultural and biological mixing, of Spanish and Plain Indian lives at the opening during the 18th century. Through this three-part digital narrative, viewers will garner an enhanced understanding of the longue durée of human interactions in southern Colorado. Viewers will be prompted to reflect on the positive, negative, and ambiguous aspects of human relations and change.

An Interdisciplinary Approach: Layering Information to Enhance Reflection

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Bridging Disciplines, Bridging Communities

To accomplish this endeavor, we bridge the deep expertise of visual and performing artists, anthropologists, language specialists, philosophers, sociologists, geographers, and historians. Further, we invite the novel participation of natural scientists, mathematicians, and physicists who can generate previously never-contemplated contributions. For example, language specialists might reflect upon the interchange of indigenous and Spanish tongues whereas biologists might evaluate issues of biodiversity and disease. Mathematicians may contemplate the probabilities of events and the complex systems underlying social and natural structures and geographers could characterize social uses and perceptions of the land. Visual artists could recreate imagery, musicians the arrangement of instruments and voices in music, and anthropologists the competition and blending of cultures. Philosophers and historians might wrestle with Catholic-indigenous religious syncretism and perspectives of time. Sociologists and psychologists may evaluate the transformation and resilience of group and individual identities.

In turn, we will extend ourselves and reach out to the deeply-embedded indigenous communities (for example, the Ute) and descendants of Spanish conquistadors and settlers who still reside in southern Colorado. Seeking their input and guidance through an advisory council, personal interviews, and routine reports in southern Colorado communities, we aim to build this digital world to reflect their heritage and past.

Together, we will create a multidimensional reflection upon this human past that is manifested through visual and auditory interactions in a virtual and augmented-real world.

Expanded Horizons and New Expertise

Crucial to our success is a collective agreement that each participating faculty member will commit their existing time and effort to enhancing their technical training so that they can master managing and developing future “augmented reflections” interdisciplinary projects. These fields include new virtual reality coding expertise with C# and UnityScript (Javascript), character (avatar) generation with MakeHuman or Blender.

Garnering these technical abilities will allow LAS faculty to marshal technology for their future work. We will wield these technologies so that we are not dependent on other fields to achieve our goals. As much as 30% of our budget will be used to support the faculty’s acquisition of specialized training to create new expertise. We also will request a dedicated lab space where our team can implement our collaborative efforts.

LAS faculty will simultaneously apprentice in their new technical areas as we collaborate with outsourcing partners in the private sector. To expedite and lower the cost of our development efforts, our outsourcing partners will prepare commonly-purchased (commoditized) technical infrastructure for our project that has minimal intellectual value to our respective fields. We will also offer a few project-based grants to advanced UCCS undergraduate and graduate students.

Experiential Dissemination: Heller Center, Community Events, and a Global MOOC

Our public dissemination efforts will be realized via online education (a new online HUM course about southern Colorado and a MOOC), public performance programs (onsite at the Heller Center, GOCA gallery, and at three locations in Colorado), and a digital platform (where any user can download the AR experience and view it at their home). Moreover, we will harness the broad reach of the partnership to deliver this experiential knowledge to the 30+ million person student body via a Massive Open Online Course.

High Risk, High Reward Implementation

This project will involve high risk, high reward implementation and will be completed in less than 24 months. Professor Martinez’s prior management and development of the Virtual Plasencia virtual world (a 4-month development period with a budget of $15,000 USD) and the digital narrative titled, “La Mota”, (a 2-month development with a budget of $5,000 USD) serve as proofs-of-concept.

It is our expectation that the project will commence in fall 2018. The first milestones, our enhanced training, and a prototype augmented reality world, will be completed by the end of spring 2019. By the end of summer 2019, the three-act experience will be completed as well as alpha and beta-testing. During fall 2019, we field test the experience at Heller and at another remote location (to simulate the experience being used at other venues). Spring 2020 will include our first public “performances” of the experience at Heller and other UCCS sites. During summer 2020, our global public dissemination will be achieved using the MOOC, an online HUM course, and a digital web presence hosted at UCCS. Our public programming will culminate in Fall 2020 with public performances in Pueblo, Durango, and Denver, and will be especially directed to Hispanic audiences and the descendants of indigenous Coloradans.

All interested co-PIs and collaborators are strongly encouraged to contact Roger at I look forward to working with you!

Prof. Martinez’s Expertise and Prior Work

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Related Publications

Martínez-Dávila, Roger Louis, Paddington Hodza, Mubbasir Kapadia, Sean T. Perrone, Christoph Hölscher, and Victor R. Schinazi. “Telling Stories: Historical Narratives in Virtual Reality.” Routledge Digital Medieval Literature and Culture, eds. Jen Boyle and Helen J. Burgess, 2017.

Martínez-Dávila, Roger Louis, and Lynn Ramey. “Remediation and 3D Design: Immediacy and the Medieval Video Game World.” Routledge Digital Medieval Literature and Culture, eds. Jen Boyle and Helen J. Burgess. 2017

Martínez-Dávila, Roger Louis, Josef Díaz, and Ron D. Hart, eds. Fractured Faiths: Spanish Judaism, the Inquisition, and New World Identities. Albuquerque: Fresco Books, 2016. ISBN: 978-1-934491-51-5.


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