Interactive Multimedia Experiences in Higher Education: Gaming, Augment and Virtual Reality, and Research

Interactive Multimedia Experiences in Higher Education: Gaming, Augment and Virtual Reality, and Research

Patrícia Gouveia, Luciana Lima, Anna Unterholzner
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-7271-9.ch010
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This chapter presents experiences in using gaming and interactive media in higher education environments since 2017 culminating in the 2020/21 years when the COVID-19 pandemic forced teachers and students to adopt different work methodologies. Participatory design strategies merged with a tradition of critical and interdisciplinary studies in humanities mediated by online technologies helped shape these strategies enhanced by the cooperation from three different faculties from Lisbon University in Portugal (Universidade de Lisboa, UL), namely FBAUL, IST, and IGOT. The aim of these experiments was to augment the potential for innovation and research taking advantage of gaming research methodologies to involve teachers and students in a common context. This chapter also shows research done in interactive media, augmented and virtual reality, game art, and gender equity. The year 2020 showed how institutional collaboration can open learning spaces to a more focused approach on the interests of young people and to promote a more sustainable and dynamic future.
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Introduction And Background

A Holistic Systemic Participatory Design and Interdisciplinary Strategy

The complexity of the year 2020 leads us to reflect on various factors far beyond the COVID 19 pandemic. Since March 2020, confined at home, disoriented higher education teachers and students worked together to make the health situation a little less overwhelming. In our country, some people mastered digital technologies enough not to be excluded from the unsettling present that was felt on television, newspapers, radio, and other traditional media. On the internet, conspiracy theory flourished at toxic levels in social media, but escape was possible after all. Armed with time, due to the mandatory confinement, we could play, watch movies and series, read, and work together in a renewal way, to take the opportunity to do things differently. We received books in PDF format through the web to distribute, we attended online free conferences from around the world, we could play games, see movies on free streaming platforms, but outside the screen, the world had never been so grey.

This situation was the trigger for thinking about the ongoing processes of digital change in the country. Some took the opportunity to do what they had been postponing for years (i.e., Digital Transition Action Plans), accelerated by a time of rush that turned into a pandemic context into something else, another world that claimed slowness and delicacy. Stopping was possible for some, but not all. On the one hand, the COVID-19 pandemic has caused many people to strive to use different digital technologies, so it has been a catalyst in the widespread use of technological resources, making it an immediate priority to ensure the maintenance and continuity of educational, labour, health, and training processes. On the other hand, the pandemic has revealed the gap between those who have technological resources and digital skills and those who did not have these capacities. This gap is even greater if we consider factors such as gender, age, and socio-economic conditions (UN, 2020, online). The evident contrasts between those who had access to digital technologies and those who did not, between those who could work from home and those who could not do it, dismantled, and awakened old ideologies and dogmatic ways of thinking. The discrepancies in accessing technological possibilities that have been going on for decades have made it evident how Portugal needed changes.

Participatory and slow design merge real and imagined spaces that bring artists, designers, researchers, and participants together in defence of six principles: to reveal spaces and experiences that may be forgotten, including materials and processes; to expand, taking into account the potential of artificially produced artefacts and environments, leading to more balanced consumption; to engage in open and collaborative processes based on information sharing, cooperation, and transparency; to encourage people to become active participants in design processes, strengthening a sense of community and social value; to evolve, from experiences, artefacts and reflected environments (Correia, 2017). Participatory design is crucial to understand the role of technological mediated participation supported by digital media. Looking beyond the immediate needs of everyday life participatory design is nothing new. It evolved from the seventies Nordic cooperative design systemic processes and the firsts attempts, in 1971, from the Design Research Society in the United Kingdom. The field was defined in a conference named “Design Participation” (Correia, 2017). In this context, “arts and design merge the creation and solving of problems in a holistic manner incorporating systemic ideas and emergent behaviour” (Gouveia, 2018). We can also consider that the “goal of participatory design is to include all stakeholders in each step of the design process. Such stakeholders include designers, clients, users, the community, and others. Users are especially valuable stakeholders when it comes to designing for the public” (Kang, Choo, & Watters, 2014, online). Tendencies that incorporate participatory strategies, drawing on the perspectives of the humanities and sciences are not new (Bianchini & Verhagen, 2016) and we should also be aware of the influence of the digital interactive transition since the end of last century.

Grounded in a tradition of critical and interdisciplinary studies in humanities, enhanced by cooperation from three different faculties in arts (Faculdade de Belas-Artes da Universidade de Lisboa, FBAUL), engineering (Instituto Superior Técnico, IST) and geography (Instituto de Geografia e Ordenamento do Território, IGOT) from the University of Lisbon (Universidade de Lisboa, UL) we augmented the potential for innovation and research taking advantage of gaming research methodologies to involve teachers and students in a shared participatory environment. These experiences were built in an arts and design multimedia tradition previously developed by (Gouveia, 2010) and others (Manovich, 2001; Bogost, 2007; Flanagan, 2009; Deterding, 2014). Gaming processes interconnect various communities, countries, city spaces, and people in a hybrid fashion creating a gameful world where teachers and students can learn together in a shared environment.

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