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Monthly Archives: February 2016

Call: Gamevironments of the Past – Video Games and History (special issue)

CALL FOR PAPERS – Special issue of Gamevironments:
GAMEVIRONMENTS OF THE PAST – Video Games and History.

Guest editors: Derek Fewster ( and Ylva Grufstedt (

The journal invites researchers to submit their work to Gamevironments ( for possible publication in a special issue due December 2016.

A significant portion of video games contain historic elements of some description. In some cases, games exhibit representations of people, places and events of the past. In others, the historic element draws broadly on cultural understandings of concepts such as time, causality, continuity and change. Some games employ a self-reflexive historic discourse in making references to other games or cultural elements in general. In other words, ideas and expressions about the past in video games, range from the traditionally historiographic to historical practices with implications on related topics such as culture, religion, ethics and morality, rites and traditions, as well as intertextuality, education and politics. Furthermore, games do not only express ideas but constitute a unique form of interaction and agency, the performance of play and communicational processes, which challenge previous understandings of community and collectiveness with regards to the past. In an effort to collect new research and perspectives on these themes, Gamevironments seeks paper proposals for an issue with focus on history. We wish to collect results as well as theoretical, methodological and other scientific approaches to both disciplines and games, in a broad sense.

Papers may thus explore any aspect of the relationship between video games and conceived history, including religious and cultural practices. For example, but not limited to:

  • Design principles and restrictions based on scholarly theories known in the humanities and the social sciences
  • General senses of historicity and historical thinking (Geschichtsbewusstsein) in video games, regardless of genre
  • The use of historical sources and imagery for creating environments, styles, art, soundscapes, traditions, languages, lore, myths, religions or any sense of adapted yet plausible realism
  • The use of geographical anchoring and maps, and other representations of locations and space
  • The use of tropes, allusions, Easter eggs, stereotypes, storylines, literary references, conspiracy theories or narrative structures
  • Counterfactual speculations and alternate timelines
  • Approaches to creating fictive religious systems
  • Issues of beliefs, ideas, ideologies, politics, ethics, morality, and agency in games
  • Video games as serious or educational
  • Video games as modern historiography
  • Video games as historical culture (Geschichtskultur)
  • Video games as elements, adjusters or renewers of a collective and narrative memory
  • Video games as history politics, including e.g. themes of historical traumatization, nationalism, racism, emancipation, gender, ethnic identities, totalitarianism, or religious dogma Studies related to any of the above mentioned ideas, or other similar topics, are welcome as submission to this issue.

Read more on Call: Gamevironments of the Past – Video Games and History (special issue)…

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Using VR and presence to treat depression

[The study reported in this story from the Huffington Post provides new evidence that the ability of presence to give people vivid experiences from different perspectives can produce valuable positive effects. –Matthew]

VR being used to treat depression

[Image: A study participant playing the role of an adult comforting a crying child.]

Virtual Reality Therapy Could Be Used To Treat Depression

The new therapy could one day help improve symptoms by teaching self-compassion.

Carolyn Gregoire, Senior Health & Science Writer, The Huffington Post

Could virtual reality be the next frontier for treating depression?

A new study, published in the British Journal of Psychiatry Open on Monday, suggests that VR therapy could reduce depressive symptoms by boosting feelings of self-compassion and alleviating self-criticism. Read more on Using VR and presence to treat depression…

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Call: INTERACT Workshop on connecting HCI and HRI research communities

Call for Participation: INTERACT Workshop
Monday 21 March 2016
Sheffield, South Yorkshire, UK

Calling all UK researchers interested in potential links between HCI and HRI:

The University of Sheffield, in conjunction with The University of Nottingham and The University of Hertfordshire cordially invite you to the INTERACT workshop, which aims to connect the UK HCI and HRI research communities, and scope opportunities for future funding and collaboration.

While the fields of Human-Robot Interaction (HRI) and Human-Computer Interface (HCI) share many perspectives, and have similar research goals, there is little cross-fertilisation. We are hosting this EPSRC-sponsored workshop as a first step to ‘working together’, triggered by discussions at their Future Intelligent Technologies consultation held last year.

We hope you can join us to:

  • Shape the future of this area
  • Identify opportunities for inter-disciplinary collaboration
  • Build new links
  • Gauge the interest in establishing a joint and novel community
  • Consider the potential for proposing an EPSRC Network

Read more on Call: INTERACT Workshop on connecting HCI and HRI research communities…

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Will presence make life better or just be an opiate for the masses?

[As the title suggests, this story from Wired considers one of the key ‘big picture’ ethical issues raised by telepresence. It arguably has applied to most previous technologies but the potential of today’s and especially future technology brings it new salience. –Matthew]

Art suggesting limited VR headset view of nature

VR Will Make Life Better—Or Just Be an Opiate for the Masses

Wagner James Au Culture, author of The Making of Second Life (HarperCollins) and writer for the blog New World Notes
February 25, 2016

Virtual reality will dramatically transform movies and gaming, but some see an even loftier goal for the burgeoning technology: Providing the world’s poor and underprivileged with a better life. Palmer Luckey, the founder of Oculus Rift, and his chief technology officer, John Carmack, even speak of a “moral imperative” to bring virtual reality to the masses.

“Everyone wants to have a happy life,” as Luckey likes to say, “but it’s going to be impossible to give everyone everything they want.” But VR can provide billions of people with virtual versions of everything the wealthy take for granted: touring the Louvre, sailing the sun-dappled coast of California, or simply sitting in a meadow beneath a clear blue sky free of smog and pollution. “Virtual reality can make it so anyone, anywhere can have these experiences,” Luckey says.

Carmack, a pioneer in 3-D graphics, has championed this mission for some two decades, but only recently has the underlying technology reached a price point where VR headsets can cost as little as a cheap smartphone. And that, he says, makes it possible for virtual reality to improve the real lives of people worldwide, even the less fortunate.

“These are devices that you could imagine almost everyone in the world owning,” Carmack says. “This means that some fraction of the desirable experiences of the wealthy can be synthesized and replicated for a much broader range of people.”

The Experience Machine

This assumes, of course, that people are willing to strap into VR devices and not perceive any meaningful difference between what’s real and what only seems to be. Harvard philosopher Robert Nozick explored this very question more than 30 years ago in an influential thought experiment. “Suppose,” he wrote in 1974, “there were an experience machine that would give you any experience you desired. Super-duper neurophysicists could stimulate your brain so that you would think and feel you were writing a great novel, or making a friend, or reading an interesting book. All the time you would be floating in a tank, with electrodes attached to your brain. Would you plug in?”

It seemed obvious to Nozick, who died in 2002, that people would not. “We learn that something matters to us in addition to experience, by imagining an experience machine and then realizing that we would not use it,” he wrote. But some of the world’s most powerful companies—Facebook, Sony, and Google among them—are investing billions to mass-produce what are effectively experience machines, utterly convinced that we’re all eager to plug in.

Luckey, for one, “absolutely” would plug in. “If you asked anyone in the virtual reality industry, they would say the same,” he says.

The Pull of the Virtual

There’s compelling evidence to suggest Luckey is not alone. I recently lived for some months in the teeming, smog-shrouded city of Beijing and vividly remember noticing how many people were engrossed in 3-D fantasy games, playing them in cavernous Internet gaming cafés or on smartphones in suffocating subways and congested malls. Such games are tremendously popular in China, where hundreds of millions while away their waking hours fixated on the virtual worlds like Fantasy Westward Journey or World of Warcraft. This seems to undermine Nozick’s answer to the experience machine challenge, while reinforcing what many in the VR industry fiercely believe. “There is no difference between a life lived in virtual reality versus ‘real reality,’” says Philip Rosedale.

Rosedale was the co-creator of the popular online world Second Life, and he’s currently building High Fidelity. Both attempt to create something like the Metaverse from Neal Stephenson’s seminal novel Snowcrash—a vast, virtual world accessed by millions of people through VR headsets. (Luckey has announced his own long-term goal of building a metaverse.)

There’s an eerie parallel to these Silicon Valley projects and the sci-fi novels that inspired them. Stephenson’s Metaverse thrives as the real world descends into misery—the US undone by crime and chaos, most of Asia ravaged by economic collapse. In Ready Player One, the 2011 bestseller that Steven Spielberg is adapting for film, the poor live in stacked trailer homes and spend most of their squalid lives logged into a metaverse called Oasis. Even as entrepreneurs like Rosedale and Luckey build actual metaverses of their own, the real world also faces a future shaped by economic uncertainty and global climate change. “Doesn’t it seem like a good thing that people have a place to escape to?” says Michael Abrash, the chief scientist at Oculus. But some find that idea reprehensible—and worse.

“There’s something hideously limited about an imagination that sees VR as a tool for placating the world’s poor,” says Ethan Zuckerman, director of the MIT Center for Civic Media and author of Rewire: Digital Cosmopolitans in the Age of Connection. “This feels like a Western fantasy, a dream that a new technology will solve a problem, one those trying to solve it don’t really understand.” Read more on Will presence make life better or just be an opiate for the masses?…

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Call: VR Post Production – Presented by Visual Effects Society and LA SIGGRAPH

VES Vision and Education Committees with LA SIGGRAPH present

VR Post Production
Saturday, 12 March 2016
Sony’s Ray Harryhausen Theater
Los Angeles

RSVP’s required
Space is filling up – make your reservation now!

Revenues from virtual reality and augmented reality are projected to hit $150 billion by 2020! Visual effects artists are on the front lines to deliver that immersive content. These presentations will cover the latest live action VR post production techniques which are currently being used to realize the dream of VR.

All attendees must register through VES’ page ( Space is limited. You MUST RSVP.


Mariana Acuña Acosta, Media & Production Creative Manager, The Foundry, will describe the latest set of tools that The Foundry is working on to help solve the day to day problems of working with VR.

Gawain Lilliard, VFX Supervisor, The Mill and his team, will present the methodology and techniques they used to deliver the Google Spotlight live action VR project “Help”, directed Justin Lin, of “Fast and Furious” fame.

Jason Shugardt, Head of CG/VFX Supervisor with MPC LA will share the tools and techniques used to create the live action/CG VR adventure, “Goosebumps”.  Goosebumps VR is a stereoscopic special venue experience that premiered in conjunction with Sony’s feature film in select theatre lobbies.

Moderator: Scott Squires, Academy Tech Award Winning Visual Effects Supervisor and Developer Read more on Call: VR Post Production – Presented by Visual Effects Society and LA SIGGRAPH…

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Opinion: The power of VR will be in the hands

[This blog post from the Huffington Post argues that the transformative power of VR (and thus implicitly presence) is not in visual displays like Oculus but in “VR for the hands.” –Matthew]

Woman using cardboard VR headset

What Nobody Will Tell You About Virtual Reality

Steven Schkolne, Caltech VR PhD, internationally renown artist, and 3dSunshine founder

There’s a lot of hype about virtual reality these days, and most of it is wrong. Science fiction films and books have created a hunger for Oculus-style, head-mounted displays (HMDs) and “immersive” experiences, but does wearing a pair of goggles really have more power to transport us? Based on my 10 years of experience in the field I don’t think so.

The VR revolution will not be experiential, but rather enabling. VR is a feast for our hands, not our eyes. Curious? Read on.

The flagship of today’s VR craze is the Oculus Rift, which is a stereoscopic, wide field of view, head-tracking device that blocks out the world just like the movies promise. In our collective cultural consciousness, VR is the headset. Sensational as the effects of HMDs are, it turns out that the additions they lend to the viewing experience don’t actually add more information than a human can gather from looking at a more traditional image. If Bruce Willis is taking down a helicopter with a motorcycle on your TV, he’s still doing that in the Oculus as well. It’s the event that’s exciting, not how you’re seeing it.

I hate to break it to everyone, but great societal upheavals — like the Internet and smartphones — were generated by advances in our ability to act on and process the world. VR headsets show us what we can already see in a photograph but more sensationally. This is not enough to change society. VR for the eyes, while certainly entertaining, is unlikely to create new industries.

So, when you read headlines that The Future of Travel Has Arrived: Virtual-Reality Beach Vacations, Google Cardboard Saves Baby’s Life, Father Witnesses Son’s ‘Miracle’ Birth In Virtual Reality, realize these authors are making a cognitive error. They believe a VR headset is necessary to see a 3D world in a computer. Somehow, these authors forget that people have been living inside 3D worlds since the days of Doom (1993) and Super Mario 64 (1996), with nothing more than a monitor and a mouse (or joystick) to look around. The brain is where reality resides, and the experience a father has watching his child’s birth over Skype is just as profound. We can already experience intense psychological immersion in both 2D and 3D worlds. Just ask the 100+ million players of World of Warcraft or anyone who has been dumped on FaceTime.

Nevertheless, financial influencers like Goldman Sachs have made bold predictions about VR/AR. Will it actually net $80 billion in the next decade? I’d wager not. VR for the eyes, while sensational, offers no new information to the viewer. VR is more aptly comparable to 3D televisions than smartphones.

VR for the hands, on the contrary, empowers humans like never before. If you want a magic thread to follow to find VR gold, just follow the hands. Read more on Opinion: The power of VR will be in the hands…

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Call: Creative Technologies and Innovation: Health and Wellbeing – Digital Creativity special issue

Digital Creativity 27:3
Creative Technologies and Innovation: Health and Wellbeing

Guest Editors:
Ted Krueger (Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute)
Louise Poissant (Université du Québec à Montréal)
Diana Domingues (University of Brasilia)

Abstracts deadline: February 29, 2016

Radical changes to ecological, environmental, social, and biological conditions are turning some artists from traditionally defined practices towards new approaches that reinvent their engagement with life, health, and wellbeing. Their practices, while not new, are increasingly relevant for culture and health. These transformative changes to the nature of practice have put those trained in the arts, their insights and methods, in contact with those of other disciplines such as ecology, medicine and healthcare.

We look for papers concerned with the ways in which artists and designers actively work towards innovative solutions to issues of the health and wellbeing of individuals, communities, and environments as the principal product of their artistic activity.

This special issue of Digital Creativity seeks examples of digital art and creative practices that contribute to health and wellbeing. We are especially interested in innovative approaches and results that open up possibilities for a healthier life. How have artists or designers in collaboration with scientists creatively used technologies to directly promote physical health, or emotional and mental wellbeing? How has this engagement shifted the nature of the methods and products of their activities from the making of objects and events to the crafting of conditions for healthier ways of being? In what ways can artists’, scientists’, and designers’ frameworks, skills, and insights contribute to the understanding, engagement, resolution, or amelioration of conditions affecting health and wellbeing? Read more on Call: Creative Technologies and Innovation: Health and Wellbeing – Digital Creativity special issue…

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Virtual reality’s fragile magic ingredient: Presence

[The professionals who design and create mediated experiences are increasingly recognizing the importance of presence; unlike many stories we’d recognize as being about presence phenomena, this story from CNET focuses directly and explicitly on the concept. The original includes both videos and more images. –Matthew]

Samsung Gear VR

Virtual reality’s fragile magic ingredient

Pioneers of the new wave of VR reveal how they immerse you in other worlds, but “presence” doesn’t come easily. “It’s like a small bird you can very easily kill,” one filmmaker says.

February 19, 2016
By Richard Trenholm

One moment I’m in a room full of people, the next I’m in the sun-scorched Australian Outback. But it takes more than the fancy graphics of the Samsung Gear VR virtual-reality headset I’ve just lowered over my head to convince me I’m really hanging out with aborigines.

What it takes, says Richard Marks of Sony’s VR arm, PlayStation Magic Lab, is something virtual-reality pros call “presence.”

“Presence starts with the image being right,” Marks says. “We’re getting very good at making the images look good. Add in spatialized audio and you become even more convinced that you’re present somewhere.”

Marks was one of the filmmakers and content creators discussing VR at last month’s Sundance Film Festival, which saw an explosion of interest in the topic and many festival-goers trying Gear VR, Oculus Rift and Google Cardboard VR headsets for the first time.

How do you make them want to return for a second, a third and a 50th time?

It’s a question of great importance to high-tech companies looking for the next big thing and already banking on virtual reality taking off in 2016. Investments in VR by the likes of Facebook, Google, Samsung and Sony, along with well-funded startups like Jaunt, NextVR and Magic Leap, are expected to change the way we play video games, take field trips, and watch sports and movies.

Jason Rubin, head of Oculus Story Studio, points to demos in which people are asked to step into what looks like a yawning abyss. “I could reach out and grab the hand of somebody I know well,” Rubin said, “holding their hand in the real world — and they won’t do it. And you know you have them. That’s presence.” Read more on Virtual reality’s fragile magic ingredient: Presence…

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Call: 10th European Conference on Games Based Learning (ECGBL 2016)

ECGBL 2016
10th European Conference on Games Based Learning
6 – 7th October 2016, Paisley, Scotland
The University of the West of Scotland, Paisley, Scotland


The European Conference on Games Based Learning was established 9 years ago. It has been held in Scotland, Spain, Portugal, Germany, Greece, Norway to mention only some of the countries who have hosted it. ECGBL is generally attended by participants from more than 40 countries and attracts an interesting combination of academic scholars, practitioners, game designers and individuals who are engaged in various aspects of games-based learning and serious games. Among other journals, the Electronic Journal of e-Learning publishes a special edition of the best papers presented at this conference.

The conference is also host to The 4th International Educational Games Competition.

ECGBL 2016 is being held at the University of the West of Scotland on 6-7 October and the Conference Chair is Dr Thomas Connolly.


  • Academic Papers
  • Case Studies
  • Work in-Progress Papers
  • Round Table Discussion Proposals
  • PhD Papers
  • Posters
  • Non- Academic or Practitioner Contributions

Over the last ten years, the way in which education and training is delivered has changed considerably with the advent of new technologies. One such new technology that holds considerable promise for helping to engage learners is Games-Based Learning (GBL). The Conference offers an opportunity for scholars and practitioners interested in the issues related to GBL to share their thinking and research findings.

Papers can cover various issues and aspects of GBL in education and training: technology and implementation issues associated with the development of GBL; use of mobile and MMOGs for learning; pedagogical issues associated with GBL; social and ethical issues in GBL; GBL best cases and practices, and other related aspects. We are particularly interested in empirical research that addresses whether GBL enhances learning.

This Conference provides a forum for discussion, collaboration and intellectual exchange for all those interested in any of these fields of research or practice.

Please see the ECGBL Important Dates below:


  • Technology
  • Pedagogy
  • Social and Ethical Issues

For more information on Submission Topics, or to Submit an Abstract, please click here


In addition to the main conference topics, the advisory group invites submissions to the following mini tracks:

  • Game-Based Learning as Creative-Based Learning
  • The Teacher’s Role, Identity and Presence in Game-Based Learning
  • Serious Playfulness: Artefacts, Practices and Processes of Design and Use of Digital Technologies for Serious Play
  • Effective Persuasive Games: What Makes Them Effective?
  • Games for STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) Learning

For more information on, or to submit to a Mini Track, click here

IMPORTANT DATES Read more on Call: 10th European Conference on Games Based Learning (ECGBL 2016)…

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Chicago Art Institute re-creates Van Gogh’s bedroom to rent on Airbnb

[An art exhibit recreates a famous painting of a real space and lets people live in the recreation (and experience a sense of presence) for a night. This story is from the Chicago Tribune and more coverage is available in a separate Tribune story. For more information including two videos see the Art Institute of Chicago’s website; the Airbnb listing is here.–Matthew]

Van Gogh Bedroom by Art Institute of Chicago

Art Institute re-creates Van Gogh’s bedroom to rent on Airbnb

By Corilyn Shropshire, Chicago Tribune
February 11, 2016

Now you can sleep in Vincent Van Gogh’s bedroom. Well, sort of.

As part of the Art Institute of Chicago‘s new exhibit, “Van Gogh’s Bedrooms,” a replica has been created of the famous artist’s bedroom featured in his paintings. For $10, members of the public can reserve a night’s stay on the popular home-sharing website Airbnb.

The bedroom of a one-bedroom apartment in River North has been transformed (down to the brushstroke) to look just like the bedroom in the Yellow House in Arles, France, that Van Gogh so adored in the late 19th century. Read more on Chicago Art Institute re-creates Van Gogh’s bedroom to rent on Airbnb…

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  • Find Researchers

    Use the links below to find researchers listed alphabetically by the first letter of their last name.

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