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Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Explore Middletown America in Blue Mars

Industrial life in small towns in the USA was part of the landmark studies Middletown (1929) and Middletown in Transition (1937) by Robert S. and Helen Merrel Lynd. These in-depth accounts of life in Muncie, Indiana became classic sociological studies and established the community as a barometer of social trends in the United States. In the years since, scholars in a variety of fields have returned to Muncie to follow up on the Lynds' work, making this small city among the most studied communities in the nation. The center continues this tradition by sponsoring and promoting research on Muncie as Middletown, on small cities generally, and on themes and issues the Lynds explored.

IDIA Virtual Middletown Project brings these studies to life in the virtual world of Blue Mars. This prototype recreates elements of industrial life from that period, specifically the Ball Glass Factory. The project incorporates various modes of learning and interaction - while maintaining the immersive experience. This simulation of industrial life, built as a prototype for a much larger project dealing will all aspects of the Lynd Study, has aimed to create a virtual living museum experience expanding the opportunities for both learning and interpretation. The approach to interactive design embeds learning and navigation experiences subtly into the project to maintain the sense of immersion. IDIA has prototyped several techniques to do this including:
  • interactive objects that allow for close up inspection;
  • objects that when clicked bring up web resources that show information;
  • plans or photographs used in the interpretation;
  • non-player character factory workers;
  • a live interactive avatar of Frank C. Ball who greets visitors and introduces them to the factory;
  • video and audio files of factory experts and archival films;
  • an in-world interactive Heads-Up-Display (HUD) that provides deeper investigation and navigation through the factory; and
  • a supporting webpage with complete documentation on all resources used in this interpretation

Find out more at the IDIA Lab website and the video walkthrough.

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