We plan to develop innovative virtual-reality hardware and new software that will calculate virtual-reality experiences in real time. We want to join the circle of researchers who are exploring ways of digitizing sensual experiences other than sight and hearing, particularly those attempting to re-present olfactory sensibles. We wish to open the historical humanities as a laboratory in which we can explore issues large and small. We desire to establish new avenues for more effective scholarly exchange, which will keep scholarly publishing in the hands of scholars, make it freely accessible, and allow flexibility and extensibility not possible in traditional hard copy books and journals. Further, we hope to develop innovative approaches for more affective rhetorical engagement with broader audiences.
The project embraces collaboration as super-additive, i.e. more than the sum of its parts, and as hypergolic, i.e. realizing potential only in combination (like some rocket fuels or glues comprising more than one component). This is the logical methodology we wish to employ since cultural and scientific production is and always was super-additive and hypergolic. The senses are not distinct from each other anatomically, physiologically or historically. To dissect the sensorium into parts, to dismember it, to disperse it, was/is to capture parts of it to make it fit on to a slide under a microscope, and thus to cut off the life lines of its power, eventually to parcel it out in order to commoditize it within the economies of modern disciplines and industries. The sensorium was forced to cease and desist as it was cut open in order to expose it to the scientific and scholarly gaze and market it aesthetically to various publics in exhibitions, concert halls, and textbooks – much like taxidermied beasts or specimens in formaldehyde. We therefore acknowledge that the senses never existed in isolation of each other, but work together with the equally intertwined somatic and cultural enterprises of cognition, emotion and memory. We further do not see this collaboration as a “mash-up” that attempts productively to combine disparate endeavors, be they realms of scientific, scholarly, and artistic creativity, high and low art, or the past and the present. Rather, we wish to utlize a natural, cultural, and historic ensemble.
Past and Current Projects
Our larger programmatic goals build on the those of a precursor project Opening the Geese Book. This ongoing open-access web-based project, launched in 2012, presents a manuscript facsimile, sound recordings of chants, analysis, commentary and historical background information in video form, as well as other data and information in more traditional formats. Other digital projects are variously exploring integrated sensescapes of the past. They include Icons of Sound Aesthetics and Acoustics of Hagia Sophia by Bissera Pentcheva; Virtual Paul's Cross Project: a digital recreation of John Donne's gunpowder day sermon; CD-DOM and follow-up projects by Jan de Rode and Geeske Bakker focusing on the cathedral of Utrecht; Petroglyfiskt: the reconstruction of an interactive bronze age procession by Magali Ljungar Chapelon; St. Stephen's Chapel, Westminster: Visual & Political Culture 1292-1941; Historium Brugge; La Sainte-Chapelle de Dijon et les residences des ducs de Bourgogne: architecture, histoire et musique; the 3D reconstruction of the house of Caecilius Iucundus in Pompeii. The installation Speculum Musurgica by Rudi Knoops, first featured as part of the Alamire exhibition in Antwerp, is breaking new ground in creating a novel participary, virtual-reality environment for polyphonic music. A pioneering book on the acoustics of historic buildings was authored by Deborah Howard and Laura Moretti: Sound and Space in Renaissance Venice, New Haven and London 2009. The Humanities & Neuroscience Project of the Italian Academy of America explores connection between images and emotions.