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Imaging and Imagining the Past

creative commons licensed (BY-SA) flickr photo by szeke: http://flickr.com/photos/pedrosz/2115782565

Everyone has a book that epitomizes their upbringing. For me it was My Place by Sally Morgan. Not only did it provide an insight into the way people lived over time, but also how places change. I was reminded of this recently as my wife and I strolled around Circular Quay in Sydney. Littered on the pavement are a series of markers indicating where the shore line was in the past and how people have progressively extended this overtime. Looking at the markers and boardwalk, it was hard to imagine the shore as it was when the first fleet landed and how different things must have been different. This attempt to empathise with the past got me wondering whether there will ever come a day when augmented reality could provide us with such an insight or if this was beyond the realm of possibility.

Last year, I remember stumbling on a virtual tour made with Google Earth Tour by +Lee Burns looking at the different places in Raimond Gaita's autobiography, Romulas, My Father. Although this located the places in space, it did not necessarily locate them in time. Wouldn't it be amazing if we could not only explore place, but also time? If we could go back and walk the streets of Melbourne and Baringhup in the 1950's?




This got me thinking about the notion of augmented reality and the idea of a physical tour where you could choose which time you were walking through. Imagine that instead of having to go to somewhere like Sovereign Hill or the Pioneer Settlement to step back in time, we could instead look out across the city skyline of a place like Sydney and call up a vision of what it might have been like in the past or even better Machu Pichu when the Inca empire was at its height. I saw something similar imagined in Corning's A Day Made of Glass series where students are shown how dinosaurs existed in the past, without visiting Jurassic Park. However, what I felt was missing in this vision is a personalised experience. I wonder then if this is the potential of Occulas Rift to bring such experiences to us. Google offer a lot of alternatives to being there, as outlined by +Chris Betcher, providing a means for visiting virtual galleries or exploring the Great Barrier Reef. However, maybe the next best thing to being there is imagining it and reconstructing it.



I guess though once this is all said and done, we still arrive at the age old problem, what story is being told and who is telling it? This is something continually grappled with other forms of fiction, such as film and novels. For whether we like it or not, history is always a question of perspective and this must never be forgotten.

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