After several planning meetings, Visiting Assistant Professor of Literature Nhora Serrano’s exciting and ambitious course has started! The course “introduces students to the representation of virtual worlds in literature, and how these ‘dreamscapes’ have transformed our understanding and experience of the ‘real.'” This positions modern day virtual reality devices within a historical and philosophical framework, dating back as far as the shadowy projections in Plato’s Allegory of Cave. The course goals include having students explore emerging technologies “in order to interrogate how the literary texts represent and problematize the paradigmatic relationship between the so-called real world and the dreamscape.”

Engaging with this, student will create virtual realities of their own, familiarizing themselves with the contemporary technology to do so. Instructional Designer and 3d Technology Specialist Ben Salzman will be helping the class work with a Unity template and assets to create, in groups of two or three students, an immersive environment (which viewers will be able to virtually walk through!) from one of the virtual worlds read about in class.

The course will build towards the final project all semester, with workshops starting in February. After trying out our HTC VIVE virtual reality headset and exploring a sample of the type of scene they will be able to create with Unity during this semester, the students will create a 3D virtual object from either Carroll’s Through the Looking Glass or Baum’s The Wizard of Oz. This individual project will serve as scaffolding, enabling students to get their hands into 3D design in an accessible, simple, and lower stakes way than their final project. The 3D virtual object will be made through some combination of 3D scanning, the easy-to-use browser-based 3D design app TinkerCAD, and virtual reality apps like MakeVR Pro or Medium that enable design work to be done in virtual reality instead of on a computer screen. Students will track their learning and display their virtual objects on a course blog.