Both the Favro and the Bonnett pieces place a strong emphasis on the creation or composition of 3-D models. This can be summed up by Favro’s statement:
I would argue that the real value of historical simulations lies not in the representations themselves, but in the process of their creation and in the subsequent experiments now possible to be conducted within the simulated environments.
I think that there are a few reasons for making this point. The first being the fact the most 3-D environments are not really that interesting to look at and experience. They are described as transporting you to ancient environments, but I often find that because of technological limitations they disappoint. Most 3-D visualizations really only transport you to the time that they were created. When I see visualizations from 2001 I am more reminded of 2001 than whatever time is being represented.
Both Favro and Bonnett also seem aware of this limitation and try to tell 3-D modeling as a teaching tool. I think that there is a lot of be gained by creating a model using primary source evidence, but I do not understand what about the nature of 3-d modeling makes it different or better than more traditional forms of scholarship. For example, take a look at the 4 learning lessons that Bonnett uses:
- The first lesson students learn in our tutorial is that evidence is subject to misinterpretation.
- The second lesson our students learn is that evidence is incomplete.
- Sometimes historians face not only incomplete evidence, but scenarios in which there is an absence of evidence.
- Our fourth lesson is that more information can be garnered when an item of evidence is interpolated with other source material.
When taken out of the context of his article, those 4 lessons lose all association with 3-D modeling. They could be applied to any type of historical work that uses primary source material to form an opinion or theory. Bonnett tries to sell 3-D modeling as a stepping-stone to primary source material but does not explain how it is different than any other historical endeavor.
I think that is my issue with 3-D immersion and modeling. I could not figure out what makes it better than other forms of scholarship that would justify the amount of time and effort it seems to create 3-D models and environments. When I look at a 3-D environment like Rome Reborn, I find myself thinking “this must ave taken so long to create” more than I find myself thinking about ancient Rome. That might just be a personal problem though.