It is clear that 3D or immersion visualizations are valuable from a pedagogical stand point, particularly in contrast to 2D visualizations. However, I am still uncertain as to how they can enhance research or be used for publication, as evidence for example. A reconstruction or visualization of any kind, whether in 2D or 3D is still a form of representation. As such, it is subjective and susceptible to the to the same issues. In this sense, are 2D and 3D visualizations fundamentally that different? How would a 3D visualization improve research? Why is it better or more useful? The answers to these questions depend much on the object(s) of visualization. For an embodied experience, that is an experience which involves movement and the body, I would say that the 3D visualizations or immersion would enhance research and teaching. However, like any visualization technology, I don’t believe that 3D or immersion technologies would work for every kind of research. Again, the question is why should we use this technology? How can it answer a specific set of research questions? How would it enhance or complement these questions or the results of our research as opposed to another form of visualization?
I have included a link to a project called “Mapping Gothic France” started by art historian Stephen Murray at Columbia University. The link is to Sainte-Chapelle in Paris to give an example of a specific structure:
The site provides a map, description and bibliography. Each building has its own site that also includes 2D drawings and reconstructions in addition to 3D photo panoramas of different sections of the building. The obvious issue with the 3D reconstruction is that it represents the current architecture of the church, rather than the medieval architecture. It does help you to get a sense of the building, the general layout and organization of space, but not much more. The 2D reconstructions are also more abstract, so that details like the texture, light, cannot be captured or visualized. As Johanna Drucker points out, 3D reconstructions are still based primarily on sight. For an experience of a medieval church to be truly immersive, other senses would also need to be incorporated, such as touch, smell, and sound. A virtual access map would be interesting. A virtual reconstruction of the liturgy that included sound – prayer and speech – and smell such as incense would greatly improve how we understand medieval church rituals and practices.