Immersive video game explores the history of women at MIT | MIT News

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A new video game, “Your own laboratorycreates an immersive environment in which players discover archival materials that tell the stories of women from MIT history. Created by multimedia artists Mariana Roa Oliva and Maya Bjornson with collections from the MIT Libraries. [email protected] Archive InitiativeThe project aims to create a multi-sensory choose-your-own-adventure experience that challenges the idea that the past is behind us.

“Our goal was to bring these materials into the conversation through an engaging virtual space,” says Bjornson. “We felt that by using new digital technologies we could make the archives accessible to a wider audience and make the investigation feel like a game.”

Multimedia and Installation Artists Roa Oliva and Bjornson Named Spring 2021 [email protected] Fellows in the Distinctive Collections department of the MIT Libraries. By engaging in archival research using MIT’s rich collections, fellows create projects that contribute to a greater understanding of the history of women at the Institute and in the history of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). ).

“A Lab of One’s Own” is a fantastical virtual world where players find quotes from memoirs and oral histories, newspaper clippings, audio clips, and ephemera that speak to the experiences of women at MIT and in STEM fields. . Perspectives from a variety of individuals and time periods are juxtaposed in a sort of collage that offers new interpretations of these stories. Built using the public Unity game engine, “A Lab of One’s Own” can be downloaded from the project website.

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In the game, players navigate through different settings, including an island, a cabin in the woods, the inside of a microscope, a conference room, and outer space, following a series of floating diamonds that trigger quotes and excerpts. text from MIT. File, Archive. Players can also explore their virtual environment: examine formulas on a whiteboard, walk through a landscape of floating photographs, or read pages from scientists’ notebooks. Throughout the game world, one can find newsstands offering clippings from publications such as the technology and the Higher Education Chronicle on issues of gender, sexuality and race.

The six chapters of “A Lab of One’s Own” examine different aspects of the lives and work of a variety of women. The cabin contains objects and texts of pioneers such as ellen swallow richards Y emily wick, who studied the domestic sphere through the lens of science. Chapter three makes the idea of ​​the “rat race” literal, while the texts describe the challenges of balancing career, motherhood, marriage or the career of a spouse, and an audio track of chokyun rha, the first woman of Asian descent to receive a position at MIT, talks about her work developing synthetic milk. In the auditorium, players can explore the intersection of gender and race, as articulated in a keynote address by Angela Davis at the 1994 Black Women’s Conference at the Academy at MIT, and other archival source citations.

“Materials from the [email protected] archival initiative tell stories of women who have been the first to graduate from academic institutions, publish groundbreaking papers, and come together at first-of-its-kind conferences,” the fellows write in their introduction to the game. “They also offer glimpses of history that happened both in community meetings, quiet lab hours, and at home.”

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Accompanying the game is an exhibit in the Hayden Library loft, located on level 1M, illustrating how Roa Oliva and Bjornson used Distinctive Collections to create the immersive “A Lab of One’s Own” experience. Archival materials, including audio recordings of Margaret Hutchinson Compton, wife of MIT President Karl Compton, and MIT Sloan School of Management faculty member Lotte Bailyn; a transcript of a women’s lunch from 1976; and proceedings from a meeting of the Women’s Independent Living Group in the 1970s, are on display, along with reflections by fellows on their exploration and interpretation of the collections.

“The goal of the exhibit is to showcase the Distinctive Collections archival items that Mari and Maya used along with their reflections to illustrate the interpretive process that goes into working with archival materials,” says Alex McGee, Distinctive Collections Acting Head of Public Services. . “The many different types of items on display also demonstrate the diversity of our collections. Our hope is that the exhibit will illuminate the possibilities for archival research beyond your standard document or item, rather than highlight the limitless potential of these collections.” in one’s work.”

The MIT Libraries’ [email protected] Archive initiative seeks to add the records of women faculty, staff, students, and alumni to the historical record by collecting, preserving, and sharing their lives and work with MIT and global audiences. These efforts are made possible by the generous support of Barbara Ostrom ’78 and Shirley Sontheimer in the hope that this project will encourage more women and underrepresented people to get involved in science, technology and engineering. In addition to this initiative, Distinctive Collections is also committed to acquiring, preserving, and making accessible the documents of nonbinary and gender nonconforming people at MIT to help share their stories and contributions.

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