The most interesting piece of information related to digital media history from this week’s readings was Lev Manovich’s discussion of telepresence in his book The Language of New Media. Most aspects of digital media are foreign to me, but this idea of being able to manipulate physical things in real time at a distance sounds like science fiction. Manovich beautifully explains this concept through his example of Titanic. In the beginning of the movie, the operator controls an underwater robot from the ship using screens. He can move rocks, debris, and artifacts from the ship through the mechanical arms of the machine (152). Manovich discusses this telepresence in relation to history in hyperlinks and virtual reality, but I am intrigued by how this concept can be further applied and utilized in understanding and presenting history.
In medicine, for example, a surgeon can operate on a patient across the room or in a different room by using a robot. In real time, not virtual time, the physician manipulates blood vessels, points of entry for scopes, and even monitors and controls the scopes’ journey through the body. A person can be present in a different space at the same time. This telepresence has very real applications in medicine and archaeology, as Manovich suggested, but how could this concept be applied to history?
Imagine if a student opens up a webpage or program that allows him or her to manipulate real objects in a museum to get a closer look. Imagine if students from America can be telepresent in a classroom in China or France through webcam, asking questions and learning in real time. It is hard to speculate about the possible applications for telepresence outside of science or government, but I think exploring those ideas, especially related to education, are important.