What Is the current fascination with VR on the part of museums and art galleries?

Conference item


Dewdney, A (2018). What Is the current fascination with VR on the part of museums and art galleries? Contemporary Art Society Annual Conference: The Virtual in Museums: Hot Medium?. National Gallery, London 10 May 2018
AuthorsDewdney, A
Abstract

Abstract Over the past two years more and more national and international museums and galleries have teamed up with technology companies to demonstrate how VR applications can be used in the cultural heritage sector. Modigliani’s studio in VR at Tate Britain, The Royal Academy in partnership with HTC Vive demonstrating VR in the ‘From Life’ exhibition, Zaha Hadid’s Architecture in VR at the Serpentine. Matt Collishaw’s reconstruction of Fox Talbot’s first photographic exhibition in VR at Somerset House. I could go on, The National Gallery and The British Museum teaming up with Oculus to provide virtual 3D headset tours, not to forget Google Arts and Culture’s now established Google Art Project partnerships using Google software tools. How are we to assess this growing trend? Is it a potential moment of radical change in the museum, or is it another fleeting fascination? One way of assessing the situation is to ask how the museum has already responded to wider technological environment of networked culture in relationship to its role in maintaining cultural value. This presentation will discuss VR in terms of its claim to be a medium. It is undoubtedly the case that 21st century developments in virtual, augmented and networked computational technologies have profoundly affected social and economic realities. In what appears to be the hyper acceleration of continued technological development it is crucial that we critically question the meaning of such developments for culture and creativity. The presentation covers three related aspects of VR as a proposed medium. Firstly it revisits some of the ideas and difficulties of the work of Marshall McLuhan in thinking about what kind of medium VR is. It situates VR technologies in a longer history of optical technologies of vision in the context of the convergence of and boundaries between art, media and technology. Secondly, it defines some of the current ways in which the terms digital, media, virtual and reality are used in the museum and art context. Finally it touches upon how museums have engaged with and understand the value of digital technology in terms of their future strategy and development. The presentation takes the view that whilst VR devices and software are now more widely available and applicable, the current interest in their use may well be a distraction from a much greater virtual reality that has already taken place in everyday life. The network of networked computers, the World Wide Web, and global positioned connected mobile devices, have and continue to profoundly changing what it is to be human. Whilst current interest from corporate content providers is in testing market appetite for immersive 3D interfaces, VR may very well turn out to be a nostalgic longing for a past imagined future world, rather than portal into a new one.

Year2018
Accepted author manuscript
License
CC BY 4.0
Publication dates
Print10 May 2018
Publication process dates
Deposited22 Sep 2018
Accepted18 Apr 2018
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https://openresearch.lsbu.ac.uk/item/86qyq

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