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Posted by on Apr 27, 2011

Beatrice, Virgil, and guides through mobile worlds

Building on my last post about being all literary and wanting my Shakespeare to be enacted in mobile, located situations in real-life, I was thinking a bit about how these literary, artistic, philosophical beacons of our cultures could inform our modern life. How they could guide us through decision points, allude to our burgeoning emotional and intellectual maturity, walk us through difficult times by reminding us that everyone suffers and rejoices again. I am intrigued (obsessed) with how technology can actually serve this role.

In short, to bring literature, art, history, and the people who made them famous into our modern world, we need the following

Short-Term

  • Augmented Reality applications that combine audio, video, media that are contextual and reflect the specifics of the individual. Age, context, emotion, philsophy, etc.
  • Reflective applications that allow us to reconsider action, decisions, etc. towards an emotional and intellectual intelligence.

Now this technology will only improve (and in my estimation is well on its way to becoming ubiquitous in people and the places themselves) so we can think a bit long-term here and try to shape this to our own ends. Mine are quite obviously towards the learning side of things, so I tend to veer down that path.

Long-Term

To fully embed literature, history, philosophy into our consciousness, to let them guide us a bit through our decision points, perhaps we can consider the construction of our own amalgamation of literary figures, our own virtual sherpa. I actually imagined this a bit different and really was digging back into the well of our literary past. In short, what if we were to have a virtual guide (via mobile or whatever device would be more ubiquitous at that point-probably embedded on our person) that would draw from literature, history, and philosophy context for a current situation. We were facing a difficult decision and wanted to know what the “masters” had to say about all of this. We rely on this guide, which is literally a thematically sourced mined datastore of relevant quote, collocations, etc. all pegged to contexts and times. We have this now to some degree, but we just need to cobble it together from different sources.

This datastore of relevant information (a memory-store or idea-store or something like that) is pegged to our own past actions (as recorded either manually or automatically). This construct then reveals relevant suggestions, quotes, readings, or media that might improve our decision making capabilities. It would even then offer a reflective practice afterwards by posing questions or encouraging a textual (essay), audio (podcast type thing), or media based reconstruction (art) of their knowledge. Augmentative in the sense that it draws from our cultural wellsprings to inform current practice. Not just academically or spiritually, but pragmatically. Our day to day decisions become informed by our past masters.

 

Virgil to Beatrice

Dante provides a nice structure for this approach, this having a guide of sorts. Dante descends through the rings of Hell with Virgil by his side, his cultural antecedent. Virgil walks him through Hell, allows him to witness what it is, draw his own conclusions, and answers questions as needed. A guide. However, Virgil cannot complete the circuit as he is a pagan; Dante’s muse Beatrice walks him through Paradiso and bits of Purgatorio. He shed one guide for the better match of another. We mirror this process routinely online. We shed one node of a network for another, one connection for another. Need (and the ability to serve a need) are ephemeral and highly specific to context. Some relationships nurture us throughout life (family); some are transient (yet still critical to development). Imagine a relationship of learning and knowledge construction based on our shared history and culture. One that infuses our decisions now with a tested past.

Initially, at least, this wouldn’t have to be too complicated. An application that merely draws quotes or passages based on some manually inputed context (age, emotion, location). After that, and as the mobile technology becomes less obvious, more ubiquitous, we are left with an apparition informing our decisions. My professor Dr. Sian Bayne had referred to the uncanny in digital spaces, how there are ghosts in the machine so to speak, and I think the same will hold true for the fusion of this (mobile) technology on augmented realities. There will be senses of phantoms, apparitions lurking. An uncanniness. Even a guide.

As always, half an idea brought to you by Michael Gallagher.

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