CHCI Playdate — VT150: Visualizing Virginia Tech History
Hmm. Good morning thanks for joining us for today's playdate. Before we get started i've got a couple housekeeping, announcements, to share with everyone. Right now we, are, having, a call, for. Extension, of research, leave. So if you are a faculty member at virginia, tech who is looking, at going on research, leave during the next fiscal year, there's an opportunity. For, icat, to extend your research, leave or. Help supplement, your research, leave, the details, are on our website, on the funding page so if that sounds interesting to you i encourage you to check it out. Those proposals. Are due on december, the 8th. Excuse me. We also have. Another, great weekend, of our projection, projects, happening at the moss arts center. Um they are, around the theme of flight and refuge. Which is the moss's, arts center's theme, this season. And those start tonight, at seven o'clock. We're happy the rain cleared off yesterday, and we're able to do it tonight and tomorrow, night so. If you are in town and passing by the moss arts center i hope you'll check that out, um phyllis you want to tell us a little bit about the science festival from last weekend. Sure. So. Last but last weekend was the virginia tech science festival, online, so now you can go to the virginia tech. Science festival website and see all the videos there's teasers for all of them. And also, um. 10 minute videos for each of the exhibits, go check those out. And they'll stay up for a while so enjoy those. If you have questions, about today's, presentation. I'd love for you to use that link that's showing on your youtube, screen. Icat.vt.edu. Questions. And we'll get those in, get these asked to our presenters, today. I'm going to turn it over now to doug bowman, the chci. Director. Yeah thanks phyllis. So good to see everybody well i can't see you but. I know you're out there, um welcome to the play date. From the center for human computer interaction. Um. One announcement from chci. Before, we introduce, the speakers. There is another talk, later today. Um, from chci. We're hosting. Chris wickens, who is a very well-known. Figure, in the world of human factors, and applied psychology. He's got a a, great career, of really interesting, applied psychology, research. So if you're interested in attending that talk. See the chci, calendar. Or just. Shoot me an email and i'll get you the link. Um, that'll also be recorded for for later viewing. But this morning we have, a great talk from the vt 150. Team. This has been a great collaboration. Across many many disciplines, that i'm sure paul will mention. Paul quigley from the department of history, is going to be, leading the talk and we also have nick gakowski. A computer science student and kenny barnes. And taylor carroll who are going to help, with the talk. So, paul i'm going to turn it over to you take it away. Hello. I'm paul quigley i teach in the history department, and i'm also director of the virginia, center for civil war studies. I'm standing right now outside solitude, the oldest building on our campus. And it's really the perfect, place, to tell you about a project i've been working on for the last couple of years with a group of people, from across campus. We call ourselves the visualizing. Virginia, tech history, team, and in a nutshell, what we're trying to do, is to help people see the university's. Past, in new kinds of ways, we use creative, technologies. To uncover, hidden histories. And to tell, new stories. We come from all over campus, of course the history department. But also computer, science. Education. Visual arts the libraries. And and other units, as well. There's a real collaboration. Across the disciplines. But also between faculty, and students, there are a few core faculty, members, involved. Most of us affiliated. With the center for human computer, interaction. There's me, doug bowman, david hicks, todd ogle, jessica, taylor, and thomas tucker, so we're the core faculty. But we depend, heavily. And i really mean heavily. On our student collaborators. So far we've worked with around 20 students, and that number, is continuing, to rise. So as we're telling new stories, about virginia, tech's past.
The Way we work. Models, i think the best of, virginia, tech's present day educational. System, there's a real emphasis. On experiential. Transdisciplinary. Learning, since 2018. We've been working under the auspices, of the council on virginia, tech history. Which was formed by president, sands, to prepare for the virginia, tech sesquicentennial. In 2022. And president, sans, explicitly. Charged the council. With telling new. More inclusive. Really more complete. Stories, about the university's, history. We're talking about stories that take into account divisions. Inequities. And hardships. As well as all of those feel-good, moments, that we often dwell upon. So we saw a real opening here, what could we achieve. If we brought together, that quest for hidden histories. With, the, rapidly, evolving, capabilities. Of creative, technologies. I'm talking, about, technologies. Like virtual reality. Augmented, reality. Projection, mapping, so bringing those two together, is what we're all about. And all of our work really stems from a simple question. If this place could talk, what would it tell us, and we have different, project strands, we're, uh doing this in different parts of campus with different topics, different techniques. But that's our underlying, question. The centerpiece, of everything we've done so far, is a projection. Mapping, exhibit, that provides, an immersive, multimedia. Overview. Of virginia, tech history. So let's hear a little more about that project. Hello, my name is taylor carroll, i currently work as the motion graphics, artist, on the vt-150. Project. While i was a student at virginia, tech i got the opportunity, to work on the project, as a motion graphics, artist, as well as a graphic designer. I've since graduated. And started my own company, where i do motion graphics, and illustrations. For all sorts of clients. And i'm super excited to be able to continue to work on this project, as an alumni. My main focus on the project, is working on the projection, mapping video, for, the 150th. Anniversary, of virginia, tech. We are trying to encompass. As much as we can about the history of virginia, tech, in about 10 minutes, while. Using. A projection. On. A map, as well as. Videos. And animations. That bring the history of virginia, text to life. I also work on filming, animating, and editing. 360. Video. Versions, of our vr and ar tours for accessibility. Especially. With the way times are now, not everyone can get out to the site, and it's not as feasible to share headsets. So what i do is i create. Versions, of those tours in 360, videos so, that people can still access, them from their phone or their desktop. Computer. We are virginia, tech. A global land-grant. University. Stretching, from virginia, to switzerland. And beyond. But for most hokies. Home is our main campus in blacksburg. With its 35, 000 students. 2, 600, acres. 213. Buildings, and oh yes those 65. 000 screaming, fans, who pour into lane stadium on game day. We are virginia, tech. We wear orange, and maroon. We worship a larger-than-life. Turkey, and we are guided by our motto, a person, that i may serve, it all started with a small methodist, school for boys.
The Olin, and preston, institute, was founded in the 1850s. In blacksburg, virginia, a tiny dot on the map. In 1862. The moral act created a new national, system of land-grant, colleges. The federal, government, offered each state western land, land taken from indigenous, peoples. That would be sold to fund higher education. The catch. These colleges, had to emphasize, agriculture. And the mechanical, arts, more than the traditional, classical, and scientific, offerings. So we see the projection, mapping display as a kind of foundational. And introductory. Experience. Visitors, can come see it get that overview, of the development, of campus. Learn a little bit about some of the hidden histories, themes we're really interested, in and then they can go off and explore, more, specific, topics, in digital, exhibits. Augmented, reality, tours, and other kinds of experiences. As well one of those tours takes place right here at solitude. It's a headset-based. Augmented, reality, tour, it brings to life the many layers of history, that shapes this place, so we begin with pre-contact. Indigenous, history. We go through the antebellum. Era. When, this land was occupied. And worked by dozens, of enslaved, people, through to the purchase. Of the house, and the land, by the brand new virginia, agricultural. And mechanical, college in 1872. And then going forward from there we, look at 150. Years of different uses to which, the university, has put this building, and these grounds. So here's a little preview, of what you'll see on the tour, hi my name is nicholas kukowski. And i'm a master's, student in computer, science. I've been working on the solitude, ar tour for, around a year and a half now. And what's been most exciting for me, is, not just the chance to make something but figuring out the. Best way to do it, since the use of headworn, ar, for historical, tours, is pretty new. There isn't really a lot to go on so it's. Experimenting. And figuring things out as we, go. Welcome to solitude. The oldest building owned by virginia, tech on the blacksburg, campus. And what we usually call the home place, of virginia, tech. This augmented, reality, tour brings to life uncovering, the hidden histories, of the people, who lived and worked here, if this place could talk. What would it tell us and it would tell us a heck of a lot. Button in the middle is the app button. From the menu you can navigate to any section of the tour. The tour takes you to different stops, around the grounds and inside the house exploring, specific, themes and time periods. The experience, starts right here with an overview. Of more than 200, years of solitude's, history, it's been a plantation. And it used enslaved, labor to run it before it became part of the virginia, agriculture, mechanical, college, the ground you're standing on was part of a plantation. With enslaved, persons. Owned by, robert, taylor preston, the grandson, of william preston, now let's turn back, around to solitude. Please move to the next marker, and face, solitude. Click the touchpad, once there to continue, the tour, it was robert taylor's president who initiated, a major expansion, of the house, in 1851. He remodeled.
Solitude, In the greek revival, style with columns, and a symmetrical, facade. It was a statement, about wealth and prestige. At that time. Earlier, renovations. In the 1830s. Included, a log wing, which gave the structure, its southwest, facing, front, with a stone foundation, and a small gabled, porch. The 1801. Structure, was a single room, with an interior, chimney and a small porch across the northwest, section of the house, please move to be in front of solitude. And face towards the drill field. Click down on the touchpad. To continue, the tour. It's always. It's always been about the land. Ten thousand, years. Of unwritten, history, in the ground, here oh our your ancestors. All of our ancestors. Are now. Here together. Can't, undo the past. But what we can do. Is seek justice. And and at the end of the day that's that's what it's all about, is is justice. Make sure you're standing on the marker. Move around to match the outline with the actual, building. When it's lined up make sure the cursor is on the image and press down on the touchpad, to lock it in place, welcome to the fraction, family, house. Like the main house this building has a long history of its own. Here's what it looked like, in the 1990s. Before some pretty serious, renovation. Preston, who would go on to serve as a confederate, colonel during the civil war, claimed ownership, of 30 free enslaved, people in 1860. My name is kira mosley hopps, i am a descendant, of thomas fraction. Who was the son of john fraction. Who was, enslaved, here, at the solitude, plantation. As you visit the house today i want you to think about. Not just the work that they did as enslaved, individuals. But i want you to think about what type of people there are if you come back, i will kill you as stated before. So thomas and othello. Write a letter back to robert taylor preston to say i am a trained, soldier, now, and if you make a move, i will have no choice but to defend myself. And they come home i told you if you come back i was going to shoot you he pulls out his pistols. Thomas and othello pull out their pistols given to them by the civil war. Infantry. And they have a standoff. They're there, pointing guns at each other. We invite you to learn more about solitude, as a plantation. And those enslaved, here by exploring more documents, from the 1850s. For the 1890s. Exploring, them either by theme or time period. Well i think the tour of solitude, demonstrates, the incredible, potential. Of using technology, to explore, hidden histories. Augmented, virtual, extended, reality. Is especially, well placed i think to bring marginalized. Voices, stories, individuals. Back where they belong, into the center of the story. It gives us more control. We're no longer constrained, by the choices, of, previous generations, of archivists. Historic, preservationists. Who tended to privilege, only one kind of dominant, voice. This technology. Gives us the power, to present, fairer. More complete, and more equitable. Histories. We're also trying to make sure visitors, can access at least some of what we do remotely, wherever they are for example. We're planning to create, 360, degree video, versions, of some of our tours that are available, online. We're also experimenting. With a site called history pin, that allows users, to view historical. Photos, other kinds of resources. From their own computer, and if you go right now to. Vt150.omeka.net. You can check out our online, exhibits. They contain, historical. Images. Documents. Other kinds of information, about a whole range of topics solitude, is there, but also, the women of virginia, tech, student protest, in the age of vietnam. And also the decidedly. Mixed, experiences. Of the first generations. Of black students. On campus, and the black student experiences, are actually going to be the subject, of our next ar tour which we're designing, right now, and next we're going to hear a little, from the history, student who's developing, the content, for that tour. Hi my name is kenny barnes and i'm a senior majoring in history. This semester, i am helping write the script for an augmented, reality tour about black history here at virginia, tech, and when designing that tour one of the major considerations. Is the importance, of place in the ar experience. And the ability for different technologies. To really allow us to transport, users to different historical, sites virtually. I think one of my favorite uses of technology, this semester, will be at the hog hall stop. Named after the couple that house the first eight black students to attend virginia, tech. Um we will be using 360, imagery to actually transport, users to the site of their house virtually.
And Then through just first person video recording they're going to be able to experience, the long walk that these students would have had to make back to campus, upwards of four times a day. As they were not allowed to live on campus, that's just a sample, of the kinds of things we've been working on, and we fully expect, visitors, will enjoy these experiences, they'll find them rewarding. But, we also believe, our work has broader, consequences. Visualizing. Our past more clearly. And more completely. Gives the whole virginia, tech community. Past, present, and future. A deeper, and more honest, appreciation. Of what it is that makes our community, so special. So it's, it's about reinforcing. Pride in our achievements, i think we're good at that here at virginia, tech, but it's also about understanding. And learning from the divisions. The inequity. And the oppression. That's also, shaped the university's. Development, along the way our team has also learned about the benefits, of collaboration. Between different disciplines, and between faculty, and student groups, we've learned new techniques, that leverage, the power of creative, technologies. To research, hidden stories. And share them in engaging, ways with diverse, audiences. We've learned about the power of hands-on, education. We've experimented. With the latest, technologies. But we're all always grounded, in the importance, of place. We've learned the immense, value. Of understanding, the deep layers, of history. That have shaped this land, this institution. And our lives today, so these are lessons, we'll be taking with us into the sesquicentennial. And beyond. Our work has inspired, a new team taught pathways, course called history lab it's also given our student collaborators. New skills. Valuable, experiences. Working, in transdisciplinary. Teams, they presented, their work to academic, and public audiences. All the while, serving the interests, of the entire, virginia, tech community. We can't think of a better way to build on the first 150. Years of hokie, history. And prepare, for our shared future. Great, thanks, a team for that excellent, video, you all have done such a nice job to to, bring all those things together. And, uh and share with us this morning. Glad that you're here. Um, so we do have a few questions. Uh coming in uh from the audience we welcome your questions, uh, bt, um. Cat.vt.edu. Questions. Uh so, we'd love to see more of those. Um. So, a, quick question, from jessie, um. What are some of the challenges. You faced in this work visual, vt history, and how have you addressed them. Uh well one that springs immediately, to mind would be the challenges, of working remotely, during the pandemic. And. And. We, were lucky in one respect, and that we had got a good head of steam. Going, before the pandemic. So we had a lot of kind of research, material, and projects, underway. So we've been able to you know obviously, meet by, zoom same as everyone else and then because. Parts of our work at least have been outdoors, we've been able to keep it going especially, the project, at solitude. Are there others do i want to talk about. Challenges, that that you faced on the project. Yeah sure, uh, for me, when i first got started. I'm now a master's, student but i was still an undergrad, at the time and. Uh, for designing. The, solitude. Ar tour, i hadn't really. Uh had much experience. With, uh ar and vr development, so i was sort of learning. What's, best to do there in general. Um, so, for me that was part of the challenge there was, uh sort of learning. On the supplied, project.
Um, But also. No one, or there it hasn't been a lot done in this field as i discussed in the presentation. So there wasn't also anything really to base it off of, uh so it was learning. Not just how to do the development. But, and. Also. What should i be, uh, looking to do in the first place so, uh it's been a fun challenge, there. Great, thank you. Kenny you want to add. Yeah i would say for me um being a history, student i think the biggest challenge has just been like learning the technology. And what capabilities. We actually have with it, um the research, has been very fun um and writing the script has been very enjoyable, but, just learning what technologies, we have available, to us and how we can actually use them to enhance the user experience, like nick said has probably been. A challenge but a very fun. One. Great, taylor. My challenge has always been, having the, dual, screen, so, we have the top video, which is, kind of more of like a graphic aid and then the map, and as you saw thomas, it's a it's a giant, jigsaw, of a map, so, there's a lot of, back and forth where i have to design, it hoping it'll look a certain way and then we actually have to take it in and like, see what it actually does and make tweaks from. There. Great. Thank you. Um. So. Uh one question that came up is, uh and this one's from david, but. We, wondered how the headsets, did in the rain. Yeah so, uh the headset. Was, um, actually pretty fine in the rain, um we didn't have, too many. Issues, in terms, of uh all of a sudden you know the headset's, dead, um, but the real issues then came, with, uh since it shows the real world through those cameras. Um. We would get some distortion. Looking at the real world so it was, constantly, like wiping off every few seconds, you know trying to keep a clear image there. Do we need some windshield wipers for them. Yes. Excellent, um. So this is a question from kerry, um, we still live in the digital divide and the pandemic, has shown how many areas near us have don't have internet access. Or have spotty access. Some people can't afford the digital devices, that allow the tuning in. Um. How. How does your project. Work toward accessibility, for populations, that don't have access. Yeah this is a really important question, to us, and one of the things we're trying to do is make the, results, of our work as widely accessible, as possible. Um. So at the solitude, project, we actually began with the in-person, experience. And now we're kind of spreading, outward, into, a. Degree. Video, experience. That will be available.
But Of course, you need good, good internet to experience, that from home. Um, so i'd say, uh, approach, to that is to try and make it as accessible, in different kinds of ways as possible, so we will, hopefully, be able to offer an in-person, experience, for. Groups who want to come and tour solitude. At some point, as well as the, at-home. Version, so, again just trying to make it as broadly accessible, as possible. I don't know. Any of the others may have other thoughts on that question. Yeah obviously. For. The ar tour if you do that in person, uh that headset, is obviously, a, very. You know specialized, piece of equipment, but we also have, a lot of them. So that. Once is more publicly, available. It's not that you need to bring your own headset. We will provide, one to you so. That's part of, addressing. That. Great. Um. Let's see. I'm looking at the questions, here we've got some really good ones, um. Kathy, says, she just wants to say thank you and she's enjoying visualizing, the history, um. How and when would this, technology, be available to create for historical, sites for ex for non-profit, facilities, that are not staffed but have so much history to. Share. Yeah we honestly haven't given much thought to, life outside, of this virginia, tech history project, yet, but it is an obvious question to ask because, especially. You know the work that, nick for example, has been doing. He as he mentioned. Has created, something new here, so it is something that we. Would imagine will be of interest to other historical. Sites in the future, we don't have a process, worked out where we'll offer that i would imagine, we'll write up the results, of our research, and make that available. Uh. Publicly, in the future, but yeah that's a good question, any any thoughts from the others, on that. I think that can tie back into accessibility. As well so while building out the ar tour. Um and then having the headsets, is one thing, we are like paul mentioned working in 360, video so that is equipment, but that's like, you can rent a headset but you can also rent a 360, video and that's something that, that um, you could record, the site and recreate, which is what we're doing recreating, the experience. In a 360. Space that you can use on your camera. Like on your phone or on your. Computer. Great. Um taylor we actually have a couple of questions, for you, um some folks are really interested, in, your um. Starting your own company. Um, and would like to know, if you have um. Advice, for students. About careers. It's on their education. Um. So. The main advice i would give is honestly, like really cliche, like just do it um. So, i when i graduated, i got into, a graphic design job which was super awesome but, i knew that there's more i wanted to do in this field like, of like motion graphics and working with technology. So, all i did is research how to get an llc, and then i, i. Just figured it out from there i'm still figuring out from there um. I'm more worried about tax season than anything, but, we're going forward with it and. Just, just relying, on your connections. And. Seeing, like where you can go because you you don't know until you ask.
Sure. Great. Thank you taylor and that those questions, there were several of those so, um. Uh brandon, and, jessica, asked about that. Um. Let's see. Kurt says this is a super, exciting, project. Uh can you say more about the historical, research, so this is for kenny. Uh that you're building on to create these experiences. Is this research conducted, by vt faculty, and students, museums, local historians. Where you where does that information come from. Um a lot of the information. Is coming from the virginia tech special collections. So probably since 2000, they've really done a great job of collecting, a bunch of different artifacts. Um, photos documents, from black history at virginia tech. Um and oral history so most of the information, is coming from there. Um it's really just a matter of compiling, it and, making it a way that is presentable, to an audience, that will be engaged with it and learn from it. Great. Thank you. Um. How. This one's from melissa, how do you pull students. To working on a project like this or if a student, is watching. Involved in this kind of. What should they be doing. Uh yeah, they would be more than welcome to email me it's p quickly. Bt.edu. We're always looking for student collaborators. And, along the way we have, gotten in touch with our student collaborative. Collaborators. In a variety, of ways, probably the typical, one, is, one of the core faculty, members on the team has taught a student in a class, and you know they, get to learn about the project, and get involved that way, um. But then we also, have recruited. Some students, through one of our collaborators. Is todd ogle, who runs the aries, program in the university, libraries. Um, so he has, um. In any given semester. You know a number of students working for him in various capacities. And so some of them get involved with the project. So mostly. Via the faculty. Team members, we've gotten, you know a whole range of students involved. But we're always looking for more. Excellent, and faculty. Can be involved as well i i understand. This is part of this is david hicks part of this team as well. Yes. Yeah absolutely, so yeah we're. Uh, already a big group but we you know we've definitely got room for more members. And i would also add the other way that some students have gotten involved. Is through independent, studies. And, so often, you know sometimes they're already involved in some way with the project, and then, there's a piece of it that they're especially, interested, in like kenny's work this semester, for example. Is an independent, study so he's doing it for academic, credit but it will also. Uh result, in this publicly. Available. Really cool experience. So that's another option, too. Great. Well we are at, time so i want to thank our team so much. Nicholas, and taylor kenny and paul you all did such a great job thanks for all your work to pull this together. Um and thanks audience for all your questions this was great this morning um, we'll be back next week uh talking about the lane hall projections. Our own george, hartebeck.
Um, Is working on some very cool things, uh, also related to the sesquicentennial. And also, in virginia tech's history so we'll look forward to that next week. Uh so thanks everybody and we'll see you next. Time. You.