Ursula Castiblanco and Alexander Cadet
DH Evaluation of Virtual Paul’s Cross Project
Significance of the scholarship for the humanities:
The virtual project traces the social interaction and experience at the St. Paul’s Cathedral. The project’s extensive detail covers the events, worship, and the people that interacted with the Cathedral over time. Although this project is informative, it does not improve the viewers knowledge in the humanities. The project is a historical page that uses technology to further improve the visualization of the viewer but lacks the connection to how it benefits humanities scholars.
How does the project push forward (or fail to push forward) the state of knowledge of a discipline?
The producers of this project made an attempt to merge technology and religion but were unsuccessful in improving and pushing knowledge of religion forward. One main issue with this project is that it targets such a small audience; 1. religion is less popular than ever 2. One must have a reason for researching St. Paul’s Cathedral in early modern London. The project fails to educate and promote knowledge because it is also tailored toward experts in the field of religion who are already educated on St. Paul’s Cathedral and experts in religion.
Can you identify the project’s primary research question?
How did people use the cathedral over time? How did people use certain spaces in and around the cathedral? Who were the people that came to the service and provide the service? What happened at these events? What was the environment around St. Paul’s Cathedral? How can the sermon at the cathedral be recreated using digital and technological techniques?
Describe and evaluate the project’s design and interface. Evaluate the interactivity and modes of navigation of the project.
The project/ website is mainly hypertext. The website is text, images, and links. Thus, there is minimal interactivity. The project could have been stronger if there was a 3D model interface that the user could interact with.
What technologies does the project employ (both front-end and back-end) and how does the scholarship make use of these technologies?
The project was built by various computer-based visualization models. The project does not disclose specifics software but it is evident they used 3D modeling, video-editing, scanning, and mapping software.
What do you consider to be the successes and failures of the project?
The visualizations, in general, are detailed and clear. The technology used to create the models helped develop a clear and concise image in the head of the viewer. However, the production team failed when they uploaded too many visuals that all looked the same. The videos are often too long and many don’t have any sound/text and are difficult to get through because of the slow pace.
With that said, the videos that do have sound are well done. There are eight different locations that one can choose to hear the sermon from with four choices of numbers of people in attendance. The sermon is well simulated with dogs barking in the background, horses trotting past, and other real-life distractions. The test of audibility page is a success.
One general failure of the project is the lack of significance to the general public. This page will never have significant popularity because it does not appeal to enough of the population. It is interesting to experts performing fieldwork of this kind, but those numbers are slim.
Consider the role of the project director (listed in parentheses). What influence does the project director have on the project’s success (or failure)?
“The Virtual Paul’s Cross Project is the result of a great deal of work by an exceptionally talented, dedicated, creative, and hard-working group of people.” In other terms, though John Wall is the director, the majority of the project was developed by a team. Therefore, it was the team’s collective influence that made this project uninteresting. The project and the team could have made the a virtual world that was accessible to the public instead of screenshots. Overall, the project is narrowly focused and can be considered unappealing to the non-expert. John Wall and the team could have made this project more inclusive. More specifically, the project poses very few new questions, implications, or interest to relate current questions in religion to this project.
- Maintenance / sustainability: The website is not transparent on whether the website is being updated. Though the project seems complete, there are no date tags that show maintenance.
- Navigation: This page is generally easy to navigate. There are main tabs that include detailed information within. The page comes up on Google as one of the top 3 searches.
- Value/contribution/academic importance: There is little academic importance to the general population today, as well as scholars of today. The information presented seems legitimate and is very in depth, but does not contribute to any education issues that are being addressed today. It does, however, provide an understanding for digitalization of the past, which can be important in other scenarios such as crime scene investigation such as the digitization of the Trayvon Martin shooting or Auschwitz.
- Credibility/ Funding: Though the project is funded by various institutions, a DH Award winner, and backed by the NC State Library, there is evident room for assumption by the developers. For example there is no record of crowd size, their response, the weather, the sounds, and etc. Therefore, the assumptions made by the production team could lead to inaccuracies
- Does it raise other questions/ potential growth: This project could be more useful if it were to study more cathedrals to compare and contrast the differences in sermen techniques and how societies and religion are different in early modern culture and different countries.
- Organization: This project is well organized. It is focused around one sermon in London. The project has an overview with some background information, a description of the churchyard, the preacher, sermon, occasion, and the acoustics.
- Interactivity: There are some interactive aspect of the project such as the test of audibility.