Advancing the digital humanities in the 2020s must find a balance that signals a fundamental transition in how we study and represent history and culture that is not so disruptive that humanists are overtaken by new digital processes and tools. True to this spirit, we propose the Immersive Global Middle Ages Institute, which finds an ideal pathway for humanists to assume ownership of digital immersive technologies without abandoning their disciplinary homelands.
At the intersections of medievalism(s), multidisciplinary epistemologies, and globalization, the Middle Ages were not only a Western European and Christian experience, but one that was global, interconnected, culturally diverse, and with many centers of cultural and political authority.
Experiencing other times, places, and cultures through immersive technology is a rapidly growing methodology in research and teaching. Unfortunately, the hardware, software, expertise, and institutional support to build these experiences are not evenly available. This institute is designed as a gateway skill- and capacity-building initiative that cultivates and mentors participants who are seeking to employ immersive technologies in research, teaching, and public outreach for any world region during the Global Middle Ages (500-1500 C.E.).
Through its curriculum, the institute will facilitate the integrative investigation of cultural, religious, economic, political, and environmental dynamics and factors that shaped global medieval communities. We accomplish this by creating geographically accurate, 3D medieval cityscapes that use digital-layering of qualitative and quantitative data gathered from primary sources (literary, administrative, ecclesiastical, royal, and municipal manuscripts), maps and plans (Google Earth/digitized antiquarian maps), and secondary studies (monographs, document collections, journal articles). Theoretical issues surrounding global interdisciplinary work are at the heart of this institute and particular attention will be paid to developing the processes to continue this work after the institute ends.
- Explore and apply a digital Annales School of interdisciplinary research process within the context of the Global Middle Ages;
- Discuss significant thematic issues that frame and inform how immersive technologies are employed; and
- Acquire and master the research process, design approach, virtual object creation, city-scale model prototyping, and public delivery of an immersive medieval city/community using SketchUp Pro software.
At the completion of the 28-month institute of virtual and in-person workshops, each of the fourteen participants will deliver and present a substantive project that demonstrates their mastery of immersive digital humanities and medieval global theory, applied methods, and production.
Virtual and In-Person Workshops
The intensive series of fourteen monthly virtual workshops (January 2022-December 2023) and two four-day in-person workshops at the University of Colorado–Colorado Springs (summer 2022) and Vanderbilt University (summer 2023) will ensure the project meets its primary goal of shepherding humanists through a comprehensive immersive reality curriculum culminating in our participants’ delivery of their own substantive projects.