“Evaluating XR: Standards for an emerging DH medium” published in DSH!

A short essay based on our experiences discussing XR evaluation was recently published (14 April 2021)  in Digital Scholarship in the Humanities.  We are hoping this is just the beginning of a longer conversation around these topics as the grant period formally draws to a close!


Thanks to everyone who has been involved in this project over the last few years. Our world has changed considerably even since we started this project, and now, more than ever, thinking about questions of virtuality, presence, authority, annotation, equity, and augmented will continue to animate our conversations in higher ed and far beyond!


ACM SIGGRAPH Digital Arts Community Session:

The ACM SIGGRAPH Digital Arts Community inaugurated a monthly series of online lightning talks and activities in order to build community and share ideas. On 26 February 2021 PD Victoria Szabo co-hosted a session with Derick Ostrenko, LSU, on the topic of “Immersion, Interactivity, and Altered Realities.” Ten presenters shared their work, and then the larger group had a follow-up discussion of what they had seen.

We asked:

  • How have the affordances of immersive reality technology changed?
  • What are the challenges to creating immersive media artwork?
  • What is the next horizon for extended reality in art and culture?

This is a promising meeting format for sharing amongst the V/AR-DHI community. Meg Schedel, one of the V/AR-DHI participants, was also able to join us as a presenter.  SIGGRAPH is an interesting partners for us, because its provides us a way to continue the discussions around XR as a medium with accomplished members of tech tech community, as well as digital media artists and practitioners.

For more information, and to watch the session video (when it is posted), visit the ACM SIGGRAPH Digital Arts Community website: https://dac.siggraph.org/sparks-immersion/


Mapping History: Seeing Premodern Cartography through GIS and Game Engines (2020-2021)

V/AR-DHI Project Co-Director Phil Stern, History and Instructor Ed Triplett, Art, Art History & Visual Studies received support from Duke’s Bass Connections  and Data+ programs for their vertically integrated project, “Mapping History: Seeing Premodern Cartography through GIS and Game Engines (2020-2021).”  They ask:

What if we could climb into historical views of cities and experience the worlds they represent? How could we design digital methods and tools that reconstruct historical images like these in 3D even if they don’t correspond to modern ideas about mathematical perspective or gridded Cartesian space?

This project team aims to do just that: develop a methodology that analyzes these maps and views through the process of clipping, modeling and reassembling them in the Unity Game Engine. This malleable software environment will be the aggregation and exploration point for data we create via image tagging, database building and 3D modeling. We welcome applicants from all backgrounds and envision a team that includes students interested in fields as varied as history, art history, computer science, game design, urban studies and many others.

As a means of assessing the variety of city maps, views and panoramas created during the medieval and early modern period, a summer 2020 Data+ project will collect and mark up historical images of the cities of London and Lisbon for further analysis by the 2020-2021 Bass Connections team.

This is an interesting case study example that could be highly instructive to colleagues interested the intersection of GIS with VR and games, and who are interested in collaborative research with students.

Stern and Triplett also received an NEH Digital Humanities Advancement grant to support the larger project, “The Sandcastle Workflow: A Malleable System for Visualizing Pre-Modern Maps and View.” This work builds upon Triplett’s ongoing Book of Fortresses project and Stern’s research on mapping and empire.

Virtual and Augmented Reality Literature Review

Our V/AR-DHI Graduate Assistant Rosalind Russell compiled an extensive White Paper XR literature review on behalf of the V/AR-DHI team.  She explored a wide range of applications of the technology, from academic and cultural heritage applications, to museums, pedagogy, and popular media. Avrati Bhatnagar is putting together a similar report on Virtual Pedagogy for us to share as well. This is a newer area of research that has emerged out of our collective experience of the COVID-19 pandemic, and one we hope to continue to develop in the coming months.

See the VARDHI White Paper Lit Review as of August 2020. We plan to continue to develop this resource, among others arising out of the Institute!

Special Issue of JITP: The Potential of Extended Reality: Teaching and Learning in Virtual Spaces

A team of V/AR-DHI interested colleagues put together a special issue of the Journal of Interactive Technology and Pedagogy on the topic of “The Potential of Extended Reality: Teaching and Learning in Virtual Spaces.”  The special issue was in preparation just as the COVID-19 crisis was ramping up, and appeared in May 2020. As we noted there:

This special issue focused on XR—most often referring to virtual and augmented reality (AR)—emerged from our shared excitement about the potential of immersive media to support innovative pedagogy at all levels of education, but also from our healthy skepticism about the limited circles of people actually empowered to shape this process.

This question of access, on multiple levels, continues to animate our ongoing conversations about the future of XR, even as we continue to see it be embraced in our new world order.


V/AR-DHI Reunion at Duke XR Week in February 2020!

The VARDHI group re-united at Duke in February 2020 to discuss Evaluation Standards for Extended Reality, and to share update on their research with the broader community as part of the Digital Humanities Initiative @ FHI’s “XR Week.” In addition to a public symposium, we saw presnetations from facilitators Andrea Giordano and Cosimo Monteleone on the Invisible Padua project, discussed the question of Evaluation Standards for XR, and met to talk about the latest innovations in XR technology with David Zielinski at Duke’s XR Studio.

Other XR Week activities included:

  • Monday, February 17, 2020 1-5pm (Lunch +) ISS Lab/XR Studio  – Technical Approaches to XR (Instructional Team Meeting)
  • Tuesday, February 18, 2020 – small group co-working and project sharing
  • Thursday, Feb 20, 2020 11:30am-1pm PhD Lab (lab meeting)-  Visualizing Cities/Invisible Padova (Andrea and Cosimo)
  • Friday, Feb 21, 2020 9:30am-11:30 Wired Lab Internal VARDHI meeting – Instructional Team and Participants
  • Friday, Feb 21, 2020 1230-4:00pm Ahmadieh Family Lecture Hall (FHI Garage) VARDHI Symposium – Public Project examples and discussion
  • Monday, February 24, 2020 All day ISS Lab Co-working on project notes with teaching team

Some of our planned XR Week follow-up activities at the Franklin Humanities Institute were disrupted by the COVID-19 crisis. We have not yet been able to return to in-person activities on campus, but hope to resume our discussions in the coming months.

V/AR-DHI at the College Art Association in 2020

At the College Art Association, on February 13, 2020, our Getty-supported team, many of whom overlap with the instructional team for the VARDHI project, presented a panel on Advanced Topics in Digital Art History: 3D(Geo)Spatial Networks Institute. This included talks by participants focused on XR and Art and Architectural History in particular. The session was chaired by Victoria Szabo (Project Director) with respondent Edward Triplett (Instructor). Szabo also delivered a paper, “Visualizing Cities with Extended Reality: XR as a Critical and Creative Medium for Digital Cultural Heritage,” that directly addressed the VARDHI institute discussions. The presentation addressed the concept of augmenting the humanities in a broader sense, thinking about access and communication, as well as the technological affordances of the medium broadly conceived.

In addition, Augustus Wendell, who formally  joined the Wired Lab team – and Duke – this past year, presented on his work on agent-based modeling within virtual environments with his collaborator Burcak Ozludil, on “Living Beings and Movement in Historical Space:Opportunities in Agent-based Modeling.”



Centering Digital Art History in Digital Humanities and Visual Culture Symposium

From 17-18 October 2019 we convened  the ” Centering Digital Art History in Digital Humanities and Visual Culture Symposium” at Duke University.  This gathering included discussions of XR in the context of the field, a topic that came up repeatedly in our concurrently running Institute, Advanced Topics in Digital Art History: 3D (Geo)Spatial Networks, throughout the day, with a closing roundtable discussion featuring several of our V/AR-DHI program facilitators.  This conversation built upon the sub-theme within the V/AR-DHI institute around Digital Art History and Archeology.


V/AR-DHI Related Presentations at Association for Colleges of the Midwest VR Pedagogy Workshop

V/AR-DHI Project Director Victoria Szabo did a keynote presentation this summer on V/AR-DHI related topics at the Association for Colleges of the Midwest VR Pedagogy Workshop. The talk, “Beyond Annotation (or Pokemon or Zombies) in Urban AR,” took place at Grinnell College, Grinnell, IA. on July 16, 2019. Of particular interest was the broader discussion amongst participants around the use of VR/AR in pedagogy in the liberal arts college context.


Beyond Annotation (or Pokemon or Zombies) in Urban AR

Recent hype around augmented reality suggests it will overtake VR as a key part of lived experience of the built environment in our everyday lives. How can academics, artists, and cultural practitioners take advantage of this new technology to design urban experiences that go beyond simple annotations, super-saturated adscapes, or fantasy games? This talk will consider alternate precedents, cautions, and inspirations for hybrid reality experience design in urban augmented reality experience design.

“XR in DH: Extended Reality in the Digital Humanities Roundtable” at DH 2019 in Utrecht

Some of the V/AR-DHI participants presented their work at the international ADHO Digital Humanities conference, which took place 8-19 July 2019  in Utrecht. The panel included presentations from Institute Participants Mona Kasra, Lynn Ramey, and Micki Kaufman, as well as V/AR-DHI PI Victoria Szabo.


XR in DH: Extended Reality in the Digital Humanities Roundtable

11 July 2019


  • Rachel Hendery, University of Western Sydney, Australia;“VR for outreach / VR for research
  • Mona Kasra, University of Virginia, Performance and Audience in Immersive Virtual Reality Experiences”
  • Amanda Licastro, Stevenson University, “Teaching Narrative and Literary Analysis with VR”
  • Lynn Ramey,  Vanderbilt University,“VR, Unity, and Student Groups”
  • Geoffrey Rockwell, University of Alberta, Canada; “Campus Mysteries: Playing with Serious Augmented Reality Games”
  • Victoria Szabo, Duke University, “Evaluating XR: Standards for an Emerging DH Medium”
  • Respondent, Micki Kaufman, CUNY Graduate Center

The group met after the panel to discuss next steps on VARDHI, including how the disparate sorts of work our community are doing could fall under a common umbrella and set of standards.  Szabo has since submitted her presentation to be included in the DSH proceedings from the conference.

Session Details (link)
XR in DH: Extended Reality in the Digital Humanities (PDF)

3D/VR in the Academic Library: Emerging Practices and Trends

Of potential interest to our community is the new report that came out form the Council on Library and Information Resources. 3D/VR in the Academic Library: Emerging Practices and Trends. Jennifer Grayburn, Zack Lischer-Katz, Kristina Golubiewski-Davis, and Veronica Ikeshoji-Orlati, editors. Council on Library and Information Resources. February 2019.


Szabo wrote a chapter entitled, “Collaborative and Lab-Based Approaches to 3D and VR/AR in the Humanities” that may be of interest!

V/AR-DHI Convergence at MLA and AHA 2019

In January 2019 we were able to take advantage of the fact that the American Historical Association (AHA) and the Modern Language Association (MLA) were both meeting in Chicago to create cross-over events between the two organizations around Virtual and Augmented Reality in the Digital Humanities. These two sessions were organized by participants of the V/ARDHI Institute, and included members of the Institute as well as other colleagues working on related work. The two sessions were advertised across the two conferences, and collaborators met up informally at the conference as well to catch up with one another. At the conference we also had follow-up conversations about our Year 2 grant plans.

The MLA session was entitled 155: Critical Approaches to Virtual and Augmented Reality and took place at 7:00 PM–8:15 PM on Thursday, Jan 3, 2019. It was organized by Victoria Szabo, Project Director for the V/AR-DHI project and also one of the Transdisciplinary Connections: Digital Humanities Forum committee members. It included a presentation by V/AR-DHI Participant Micki Kaufman.

Session Info:
Presiding: Victoria Szabo

  • Let’s Talk about Death: Virtual Agents, Sensate Epistemologies, and the Emergence of a New Sensory Hermeneutics, Asimina Ino Nikolopoulou, Grinnell C
  • The Yellow Line and the Experience of Militarized Vision as Augmented Reality, Katherine Kelp-Stebbins, U of Oregon
  • Augmented Reality and the Humanities: Augmenting the Text, Tamara F. O’Callaghan, Northern Kentucky U and Andrea R. Harbin, State U of New York, Cortland
  • Can Virtual Reality Be Used to Teach Empathy?, Amanda Licastro, Stevenson U

The AHA session was organized by Micki Kaufmann, one of the VARDHI participants. AHA Session 160 took place on Saturday, January 5, 2019: 8:30 AM-10:00 AM.


  • · Participatory Creation of Immersive First Peoples’ Spaces in Australia, Rachel Hendery, University of Western Sydney; Kate Richards, University of Western Sydney
  • Quantifying Kissinger: Contrasting Dimensions of US Foreign Policy, 1968–77, Micki Kaufman, The Graduate Center of the City University of New York
  • Teaching Virtual Reality in the Humanities, Amanda Licastro, Stevenson University
  • Re)Playing the Past in 3D: Interactive History through Integrating GIS, Procedural Modeling, and Gaming Technologies, Austin Mason, Carleton College
  • Digital Queer Witnessing: Testimony, Contested Virtual Heritage, and the Apartheid Archive in Soweto, Johannesburg, Angel David Nieves, San Diego State University [did not attend]
  • Embodied Storytelling: STEM and Humanities Collaboration in the Classroom, Lynn Ramey, Vanderbilt University
  • Borders and Panoramas in Early Modern Portugal: Integrating Architectural and National-Scale Spatial Analyses with 3D GIS, Edward Triplett, Duke University

Website for shared materials at http://sites.duke.edu/vrar

The group also met up to discuss their projects and future plans together while in the city;


Welcome to the Virtual and Augmented Reality Digital Humanities Institute! The V/AR-DHI Institute will take place at Duke University and will include a wide ranging group of participants:

Shane Denson, Assistant Professor of Film & Media Studies, Stanford University, “Post-Cinematic Interfaces”

Tahir Hemphill, Papamarkou Chair in Education at the John W. Kluge Center, Library of Congress, “Mapper’s Delight”

Mona Kasra, Assistant Professor of Digital Media Design, University of Virginia, “Immersive Media: Performance, Experience, & Audience”

Micki Kaufman, Doctoral candidate, CUNY Graduate Center, “Quantifying Kissinger”

Fotini Kondyli, Assistant Professor of Byzantine Art & Archaeology, McIntire Department of Art, University of Virginia, “Inhabiting Byzantine Athens”

Lynn Ramey, Professor, Vanderbilt University, “Storytelling in the Medieval Mediterranean”

Kathleen M Ryan, Associate Professor, University of Colorado Boulder,“Engaging Photojournalism and Environmental Knowledge: Immersive Technologies and an Ethic of Care”

Margaret Schedel, Associate Professor of Music and Digital Media, Stony Brook University, “Háček”

Filippo Screpanti, Ph.D. candidate in Romance Studies, Duke University, “V/AR and Second Language Acquisition”

John Shelton, IT-Analyst, Duke University, “A Faux Time Machine”

Justin Underhill, Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow, Digital Humanities, University of California, Berkeley, “California Museum Resources in VR”