Coastal Carolina University
Faculty mentors: Ronald S. Green, Associate Professor of Religious Studies and Susan Bergeron, Associate Professor of Geography
Student fellows: Jacob Brine, Shonte Clement, Luke Rutherford, Silas Varick Clayton, Kasey Charette and Wyatt Beard
Experiencing Virtual Sacred Spaces: designing an immersive virtual exploration platform for the Shikoku Pilgrimage in Japan
The proposed Virtual Shikoku Pilgrimage project is focused on the design and development of a prototype immersive virtual landscape exploration platform that seeks to digitally recreate the landscapes and experiences of the Buddhist pilgrimage in Shikoku, Japan. This project is a unique digital heritage project that fits within an important current issue globally, and in Asia: the documentation, preservation, and presentation of cultural heritage through digital technologies. The Shikoku Pilgrimage, its temples and other associated sacred and cultural features are recognized as an important part of the heritage of Buddhism and of Japan. Pilgrims from many parts of the world travel to Shikoku to participate in the pilgrimage, and discussions related to the nomination of the pilgrimage for UNESCO World Heritage status have been underway for some time.
The main focus of the Virtual Shikoku Pilgrimage project will be the design and development of an immersive virtual landscape exploration platform that will use state-of-the-art 3D digital technologies to recreate the cultural and natural landscapes of the temples and surroundings that make up the Buddhist Shikoku Pilgrimage on the island of Shikoku, Japan. Embedded within this virtual platform will be digital stories and media elements that will allow users who explore the platform to delve into the experience of the Shikoku Pilgrimage, through images and words of those who take part in the pilgrimage, the local residents who live and work within the landscape of the temples and pilgrimage routes, and the scholars who have studied the pilgrimage and its importance.
Project team members will travel to Japan in May 2019 to research aspects of the pilgrimage through visits to archives, places related to the life of Kūkai, and experience a portion of the Shikoku pilgrimage itself. Faculty mentors and students will meet with scholars of the pilgrimage while in Japan, and interview and share experiences with other pilgrims, local residents and the priests and temple workers. Throughout their time in Japan, students will work closely with faculty mentors as they learn field research skills, interact formally and informally with local Shikoku residents, pilgrims, and Asian scholars, and contribute to design discussions
and data collection along portions of the pilgrimage.
The students’ individual research projects will be an integral part of the Virtual Shikoku Pilgrimage project, and will focus on content development for the virtual platform and development of design elements and technical functionality based on their experiences in the real landscapes of Shikoku. Upon completion of the research trip to Japan, student team members will process and analyze data and media collected for their respective research projects during Summer 2019, and the development of the Virtual Shikoku Pilgrimage prototype will begin in Fall 2019. This continued interdisciplinary collaboration with faculty members as we develop the virtual platform prototype and document and synthesize our work through our final reports will give students a unique opportunity to play an active role throughout the project design and development cycle.