Immersive Video Game Explores the History of Women at MIT MIT News

A new video game, “A Lab of One’s Own,” creates an immersive environment in which players explore archival materials that tell the stories of women from MIT’s history. Created by multimedia artists Mariana Ro Oliva and Maya Björnsson with collections from MIT Libraries’ [email protected] Archival Initiative, the project aims to create a multi-sensory, do-your-own-adventure-style experience that challenges the idea of That the past is behind us.

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

Multimedia and installation artists Roa Oliva and Björnsson were named Spring 2021 [email protected] Fellows in the MIT Library’s Distinguished Collections Department. Engaging in archival research using MIT’s rich collections, fellows create projects that contribute to a greater understanding of the history of women and science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) at the institute.

“A Lab of Their Own” is a fictional virtual world in which players access memoirs and oral histories, newspaper clippings, audio clips and ephemeris quotes that all speak to the experiences of women in the MIT and STEM fields. Perspectives from different individuals and time periods are combined into a kind of collage that offers new interpretations of these histories. Created using the public game engine Unity, “A Lab of One’s Own” can be downloaded from the project’s website.

In the game, players navigate through a variety of settings – including an island, a cabin in the woods, the interior of a microscope, a lecture hall and outdoor space – following a series of floating diamonds that quote text from MIT and Activates the part. Archives. Players can also explore their virtual environment: examining formulas on a chalkboard, walking through landscapes of floating pictures, or reading pages from scientists’ notebooks. Across the sports world, one can find newspaper stands that offer clippings from publications such as Take And this chronicle of higher education On issues of gender, sexuality and race.

The six chapters of “A Lab of Our Own” examine different aspects of the diversity of women’s lives and work. The cabin houses objects and texts from trailblazers such as Ellen Swallow Richards and Emily Wick, who studied the domestic realm through the lens of science. Chapter three takes the idea of ​​a “rat race” literally, while the texts describe the challenges of balancing a career, motherhood, marriage, or a spouse’s career, and the first Asian-born woman to receive tenure at MIT. Woman is an audio track by Chokyun Ra. , talks about his work developing synthetic milk. In the auditorium, players can trace the intersection of gender and race, as articulated in a keynote speech by Angela Davis on Black Women in 1994 at the Academy Conference at MIT, and other quotes from archival sources.

“The content of the [email protected] Archival Initiative tells the stories of women who are the first to graduate from academic institutions, publishing ground-breaking papers, and getting together at conferences, the first of their kind,” writes the fellows. This is the introduction of his game. “They also offer glimpses into the history of what happened at community meetings, quiet lab hours, and more so at home.”

The game is accompanied by an exhibit in the loft of the Hayden Library, located on level 1M, that shows how Roa Oliva and Bjornson used exclusive collections to create the unique experience of “A Lab of one’s Own”. Archival material—including audio recordings of Margaret Hutchinson Compton, wife of MIT President Carl Compton, and MIT Sloan School of Management faculty member Lotte Ballin; Transcription of the 1976 Women’s Luncheon; and minutes from a meeting of a women’s independent living group in the 1970s – are on display, paired with peers’ reflections on the discovery and interpretation of the collection.

Alex McGee, interim head of public services for Distinguished Collections, says, “The goal of the exhibition is to showcase the Mari and Maya of the Distinguished Collections archival objects with their reflections that illustrate the interpretive process that comes with working with archival material.” Huh.” The many different types of items on display also showcase the diversity of our collection. It is our hope that the exhibition uncovers the possibilities of archival research beyond your standard paper or article, rather than highlighting the limitless potential of these collections in one’s own work.

The [email protected] Archival Initiative of MIT Libraries seeks to add the records of female 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 have been made possible thanks to the generous support of Barbara Ostrom ’78 and Shirley Sontheimer, with the hope that the project will encourage more women and underrepresented people to become involved in science, technology and engineering. Building on this initiative, Distinguished Collection is also committed to obtaining, preserving and making accessible papers from non-binary and non-conforming individuals at MIT to help share their stories and contributions.

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