I explore media in transition. My research encompasses film, video, print, digital arts, and the web. I'm interested in what artists and writers are doing and in what critics and scholars are saying.

Friday, July 15, 2005

Virtual Reality and Memory: Revisiting Crime Scenes

I had a dream last night in which VR technologies were used to help victims revisit crime scenes and thus relive their experiences. That’s about all I remember about the dream, although I sense that it was detailed and multilayered. Soon after awakening, I decided to see whether, in fact, VR technologies are being used in conjunction with criminal investigations and trials, for I had been unaware of such procedures.

A Google search led to several relevant links, beginning with “Courtroom Applications of Virtual Environments, Immersive Virtual Environments, and Collaborative Virtual Environments,” by Jeremy N. Bailenson, Jim Blascovich, and Andrew C. Beall (n.d.). Stanford University’s Virtual Human Interaction Lab, where Bailenson is a researcher, documents related projects, as does UC Santa Barbara’s Research Center for Virtual Environments and Behavior, which Blasovich and Beall co-direct.

I also learned about the Courtroom 21 Project at the William & Mary Law School in Virginia, a joint effort with the National Center for State Courts. I was unable to access the homepage for Courtroom 21, but I did find articles about it, including “Back to the Future: Virtual Immersive Technology in Courtroom 21,” by Wendy R. Leibowitz, and “The Future of Litigation Technology,” by Kenneth J. Lopez, which took a more general approach.

From my cursory research this afternoon, I discovered that VR technologies are being used in conjunction with criminal investigations and trials in a variety of ways and that many new applications are being studied in the U.S. and around the world. For the most part in preliminary stages of development and considered somewhat controversial, these technologies relate only peripherally to what I remember about my dream, which focused on how VR experiences activated the memories of the subjects involved.

It is this link with memory that I want to explore further, in relation both to traumas and to personal histories in a broader context. I also wonder how, and to what extent, VR technologies are being used in psychotherapy and psychoanalysis to aid memory, rather than to treat cognitive problems and phobias—treatments about which I did find some references. I’ll have to continue my research another day.

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