The field of emerging computational media arts and design is rapidly evolving as an interdisciplinary and high-impact domain. Beyond its technological affordances, it could also serve as a lens for addressing the pressing environmental, social, cultural, and political challenges. Within this context, this panel highlights the contributions of four women that shed light on the nuanced topics of inclusivity, transparency, accessibility, awareness, and action. These experts bring diverse perspectives and engage with technical advancements critically through their practice and research.
The contributions of women to the history of computing are under recognized, and computer graphics is no exception. This anniversary of SIGGRAPH is particularly suitable for attending to the role of women in the diverse story of immersive technology. This panel gathers three creative contributors – one from the academy, one from the artworld, and one from industry – to discuss where immersive technology has been and where its headed.
According to the Library of Congress, 75% of silent movies before the 1930s are lost forever. [Pierce, 2013] During the early 20th century, films were not considered to have much future value or lasting significance which lead to the majority of them not being properly archived or preserved. Most films were intentionally destroyed to avoid spending money on storage space and expensive upkeep of the materials. [Pierce, 2013] By the time studios and institutions started to establish film archives, it was already too late for most of early cinema. We are seeing a similar scenario take place with preserving interactive media projects as the majority of VR experiences have been ignored by institutional archives. Preserving virtual reality has a particularly unique challenge because it is designed with interface, hardware, and software in mind. Unlike films and games that can easily be archived in formats that can be universally played on screens, the majority of virtual reality experiences are designed to run on very specific hardware. Once a headset is no longer supported, the dedicated VR experiences also disappear with it, unless they are continuously updated to move to newer systems. Unfortunately, the majority of independent developers and creators do not have the resources, time, or budget to keep up with the constant turnover rate of new hardware. Not to mention the lack of infrastructure that prevents content creators from ensuring the longevity of titles that are not positioned with a financial gain.
The panel will explore and discuss the challenges of establishing a standard of best practices for VR preservation and how to support the futurity of these studies. The discussion will further delve into the need for collaboration between artists, institutions, and above all the technology companies that the medium so heavily relies on. Panelists will provide real-world examples of why it's important to consider the potential long-term value of archiving virtual reality content, both for researchers and for the general public. The panel will identify key challenges and risks to bring clarity to the complex nature of this undertaking, like the intricate ecosystem of hardware and software and how the rapid obsolescence cycles continuously challenge efforts for conservation. We know that archives are not neutral. They are a product of their culture, oftentimes the dominant culture. In this case, big tech is the gatekeeper when it comes to deciding what gets to be kept and what gets lost within the virtual reality community. As companies like Meta take further control of the industry, people will surely not get a clear understanding of the systems of oppression within the history of immersive media, let alone a virtual reality archive for future students to reference from the past.
Having lived through the 50 years of changes, the panelists attempt to put them in calibrated perspective, not merely for the sake of fond reminiscence–and fun!–but as a guide to those who face the looming future changes.
Panelists will discuss the effects of rapid technological change, global economic shifts, and conference site characteristics on the SIGGRAPH conference during its first 50 occurrences.