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Communicating experiential and spatial qualities of the Occupation of Palestine using mixed video-virtual environments

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Memorial Museums are prominent examples of politically driven spaces that are based on narratives and experiences. Construction of such spaces requires sizable funding typically not available for under-resourced people in contemporary political conflicts. This research investigates the potential of using immersive and interactive installations to communicate complex political narratives experientially and spatially. The occupation of Palestine is a key example of a current complex political situation that has globally emerging counter-narratives. The main objective of this research was to create a prototype of an interactive multi-channel installation that conveys Palestinian narratives and spatial experiences of occupation and apartheid. This approach is a nascent exploration of combining concepts from the Design Activism discipline with approaches of the New Museology discipline using interactive and digital media. The decision was to create a mixed-media virtual environment installation, which consists of an interactive virtual environment and video projections. The Unity game engine was used to create the virtual environment that served as the main navigational interface. The Leap Motion, which is an infrared sensor, was used as the input device for the interaction. Wall projections as the output channels were synchronized to create immersion and build on the spatial experience. The videos projected were edited from footage sourced from the Internet. Key experts from different disciplines related to the research were invited to test the prototype. Their interaction and feedback were documented. The test group critically discussed key points, for example, the use of the virtual environment, the usability of the Leap Motion, the presentation of information and the aesthetics of the interface. The documentation of the process of designing and testing a politically motivated mixed-media virtual environment has produced an important discussion about related themes and resulted in a set of design considerations for this type of activist project. This discussion can lead to further development of this particular project and can be used as recommendation models for communicating other contested political narratives, especially for misrepresented or under-resourced people.
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Keywords: Palestine; design activism; game engine; interactive media; spatial experience; virtual experience

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Curtin University

Publication date: June 1, 2018

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  • Virtual Creativity (VCR) is an academic peer-reviewed journal focusing on creativity in online virtual worlds and other related platforms where the virtual is examined as a central theme in contemporary media art practices and applied contexts. Pieces exploring the subject of digital creativity are sought from the broad perspective of Art, Science and Technology, in what is a widespread field of discourse. One focus of the journal is an examination of creative activity in the metaverse - from art, design and architecture, to research and education, to play and entertainment. Additionally, Virtual Creativity seeks to engage with ways in which the virtual reflects upon the implications of the physical.
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