Digital Embodiment in Historical Representations: Complications and Ethical Issues

The creation of virtual bodies for a historical recreation is a difficult process. Every aspect of the design of the figure must be intentional; no single feature or component of the body can be represented in a certain way without interpretive or historical reasoning. This process is further complicated when one attempts to create a digital embodiment of a historical figure. In many cases, the creator may have no evidence of what the person being represented actually looked like, and must carefully exercise historical imagination to represent the body in a respectful and ethical manner. I grappled with some of these issue when I attempted to create a virtual representation of James Moore, the first master of the Gressenhall House of Industry. I found myself questioning every minute detail I changed; why did I make that choice? Can I justify that? What does it mean to represent him this way?

Issues also arise in how the player is meant to experience the character. In a first person view, the player is immersed in the body and sees through the characters eyes. In a third person view, they can see the body itself at all times, and are therefore constantly aware of it, but they do not see through it. It is also important to intentionally design an environment that reacts to and interacts with the character. If the body is incidental to the space in which it moves, there is not meaningful interaction between the space and character.

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