Mixed Reality in the Nubian Desert

Nubian Desert (Image by Kyriash) The following is not my story.  I read it in a National Geographic magazine many years ago.  But when I read about ‘embodiment’ in Stuart Eve’s “Augmenting Phenomenology: Using Augmented Reality to Aid Archaeological Phenomenology in the Landscape” this week, I was reminded of it.  In a nutshell, the story was by a journalist who was living and moving around with a group of Sudanese cattle herders out in the middle of the vast Nubian Desert.  One night he was lying out under the stars by their campfire when one of the cattle herders reflected that he was among the luckiest of men on earth because he was able to spend as much time as he wanted with his cattle.  While the journalist pondered this seemingly-ancient perspective, he watched as a satellite flashed slowly across the night sky and he marveled that this cattle herder and the people who launched this satellite could have two such differing “worldviews” and could exist concurrently on the earth.  While Stuart Eve describes embodiment as perceptions that can be “heard, smelt, tasted, and touched”, he also adds perceptions that can be “felt” and talks about “social perception.”  I think that, in this context, the journalist was experiencing embodiment in how he “felt” and experienced the “social perception” in this moment by the campfire.  If he was not actually experiencing the past in a phenomenological sense, he seemed to be experiencing a present-day reincarnation of a centuries-old, ongoing practice and perspective about cattle-herding in the Nubian Desert.

Nubian Desert Rock Painting (Image by Andrew Crowe, The Fitzwilliam Museum) But in reading this week about “augmented reality”, “real reality” and “mixed reality,” I wonder if this narrative about the cattle herder, and the images above form a kind of “mixed reality” of an only semi-technological form.  In my mixed reality scenario, here, I have given you an image of real reality – of the Nubian Desert – and an image of past depictions (on stone) of men and their cattle.  And I have given you a story of modern-day people existing in the manner of their ancestors and ask you to use these phenomena to create, in your imagination, a mixed reality environment.  Even though this mixed reality does not use GIS or Augmented Reality, I think it still plays on the same features, wherein the viewer/user is asked to take component pieces of a reality and use their imagination to knit the pieces together to form a compelling mental scenario.  Even though my mixed reality scenario is quite low-tech, it shows how massive the range of options are if you include the sorts of technologies explored for this week’s class, such as GPS, QR codes, and mobile device input streams, all backed up by GIS and various other systems and databases.