#55: Melissa Carrillo on using virtual worlds for sharing cultural heritage with the Smithsonian Latino Virtual Museum, & collaborating with the audience to create authentic experiences

Melissa Carrillo is the Director of New Media Technology for the Smithsonian Latino Center and the Smithsonian Latino Virtual Museum. She’s been a pioneer in using immersive technologies for the Smithsonian.

MELISSA-CARRILLOBecause the Smithsonian Latino Center does not have any physical spaces, then Melissa has had to embrace the digital revolution and start to challenge a lot of the traditional curatorial mindset of institutions like the Smithsonian. She’s been a pioneer in using virtual worlds environments like Second Life to hold virtual cultural heritage events like the Smithsonian Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead).

She talks about the keys for creating an open and collaborative environment with a virtual world, and how it’s more about creating a transmedia hub for all different types of media to be synthesized and shared in virtual spaces yet also shared back to the outside world through social media channels. She also goes into more details about all of the challenges that the faced along the way including what types of virtual world environments work the the best for cultivating community and sharing cultural identity. They fell into the pitfall that a lot of museum curators and educators do within VR by recreating buildings within virtual worlds that lecture at people and merely show 2D representations of the art within a 3D world.

Audiences want to be able to interact with the world, discover information that they find interesting, and be surprised and delighted through authentic experiences that are backed by curatorial scholarship and integrity.

Finally, Melissa talks about other initiatives where the Smithsonian is embracing the digital revolution, and how she sees the use of immersive technologies like virtual reality will be used by museums in the future.


  • 0:00 – Intro – Director of New Media Technology for the Smithsonian Lation Center. Use virtual worlds, gaming and simulations to reach out to audiences in a new way in order to communicate cultural identity. Smithsonian Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) events within Second Life. University of Texas in El Paso is their Second Life partner. They have a town square and cemetery environment that provide different cultural contexts for share cultural heritage experiences within a virtual world environment.
  • 2:05 – Second Life events. Important to have live programming and live streaming within Second Life to help recreate events within virtual worlds through collaborative outreach events. In virtual space, you’re able to create new experiences and not just replicate them.
  • 3:30 – Expressing cultural identity. It’s challenging to represent cultural heritage and identity as authentically as they can. Ensure authenticity the representation and presentation of artifacts, and have rigorous scholarship to do that from a cultural heritage perspective to preserve traditions. Make sure that it reflects the story that they’re trying to tell. It’s a collaboration with the participating community, and allowed the audience visitors to share stories and build altars
  • 6:10 – How to invite collaborators and hold space for that. It was challenging within Second Life since Smithsonian is used to being in complete control. Took a few years of experimentation, and need to figure out what they can and can not do. Used social media in coordination with Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, Instagram to allow audience to share their Day of the Dead tattoos and food connected to that cultural event. Let audience build their own alters, and they share their creations via social media. Tell their story in one space and spread through the social media channels.
  • 9:35 – Creating rooms and spaces that work best for sharing cultural heritage within Second Life. Fell into the same pitfalls in creating spaces in virtual worlds. Creating building and rooms and creating 2D representations of art, and replicated a museum. The most successful part of their space was their town square and plaza because that’s where people meet and have events. Using Unity3D and looking outside of the box. Simulated an excavation site to get information and clues about the objects that you find where you’re free to explore and learn. You role play an archeology, and you get an immersive experience with different ways of experiencing the objects. Virtual museum is seen as a transmedia hub.
  • 13:00 – Key learnings from working in virtual spaces. The Smithsonian Institution found that people want authentic experiences. Need to be grounded in scholarship and maintain integrity of the work and accurately recreated in 3D space. All of the information that you interact with is coming from the curatorial team to ensure that it’s not being misrepresented and that audience can have an authentic experience.
  • 14:32 – Why do people like to be surprised. People don’t want to be talked down to and told the truth. They want to discover things on their own and have a sense of wonder and awe. Goes against what institutions are used to. Digital revolution put the power of discovery back into the hands of audience. Being to think strategic for what audiences want, and so look to social media to learn about that. Science museums have been creating interactive experiences like this for a long time. Audio tours are old way, create virtual experiences that are more interactive
  • 16:55 – Digital revolution have upset the power structure and previous paradigm of cultural institutions like the Smithsonian. It’s challenged the traditional curatorial practices and traditional storytelling practices. It’s all transformed and changed how they think creatively. A lot of different stakeholders at the table at the same time. Everyone can play a part of telling these stories in collaboration with the public. Virtualization and digitization has shattered the foundation of how these institutions do business and communicate tot heir audiences. Art and culture council want to share their lessons learned. How digital artifacts are used and the permissions around those are new challenges around access. How far is content made available made due to copyright limitations. Can then change, adapt and use it further. It challenges the traditional infrastructure of how these institutions have worked in the past. Audiences are demanding more access.
  • 21:05 – Saw the power of immersive technologies back in 2007. Smithsonian was trying to understand Facebook and how to deal with social media. What will 10 years look like? How about right now? Everything is shifting in 2007 and advocated embracing change. The Latino Smithsonian Center doesn’t have a physical space, and so social media and these virtual world technologies would be crucial for their mandate. Ran for the digital revolution on the underground for the longest time. Met Aaron in 2008 and saw that they needed to collaborate with other technology companies and innovators. Art and Culture summit need to be on the same page with how to tell stories and stay authentic. Audiences want surprise. Audience preferred to go to Wikipedia rather than Smithsonian website, and now collaborating with each other. How physical installations are exploding in virtual spaces.
  • 25:37 – Virtual worlds and creating spaces, and the female-perspective. Audiences use these video games. How they tell their stories, and don’t need to use violence. Need to ensure authenticity and create meaningful experiences and that they’re contributing to these stories. Rely and respond to what the audiences are asking for. Second Life had it’s own subculture and they can’t completely censor their presence from violence and all that happens there. Set security parameters, but can’t completely shield themselves. Need to act responsibility.
  • 28:48 – There’s so much potential. Don’t put it out all there. Balance for how it’s use. The opportunity is enormous. There’s a new layer of storytelling and experience. It’s augmenting that experience. Virtual gaming as a museum collection and embracing the digital revolution.

Theme music: “Fatality” by Tigoolio

Rough Transcript

[00:00:05.452] Kent Bye: The Voices of VR Podcast.

[00:00:11.955] Melissa Carrillo: My name is Melissa Carrillo. I'm the Director of New Media and Technology for the Smithsonian Latino Center. And the Smithsonian Latino Center has been one of the Smithsonian units that has really been pioneering in terms of the work that we've been doing in virtual worlds, in terms of how we're looking at Latino collections and broadening access to those collections in new and innovative ways. and looking at virtual worlds, gaming and simulations as ways of really reaching out to our audiences. In particular, virtual worlds because of avatars and how you can customize an avatar. And again, because the work that we do is really looking at how we are representing and interpreting cultural identity through the lens of avatars, for example. I've mentioned the work that we've been doing with Day of the Dead, Dia de los Muertos, which we do every year during October 31st to November 2nd, and it's predominantly an online event, but we've also included the module of having social media as part of an active part of the engagement of going into the venue of Second Life and going into our space with our partner which is the University of Texas at El Paso. They have the islands in Second Life and we have loaned them our 3D collections that we created in Second Life and they are using those collections to continue broadening access within their own community of showcasing what Dia de los Muertos is through the simulation of a town square, a placita. The placita, the 3D simulation also has a cemetery environment, so there's different cultural contexts that allow us to tell the stories of this particular cultural tradition, where it came from, and how it's practiced in this country. So that's just kind of a little peppering of some of the stuff we've been doing.

[00:02:02.868] Kent Bye: From some of the video that you were showing last night, it looked like you were doing a lot of interactive live presentations, and maybe describe some of these events that you're having within Second Life.

[00:02:13.893] Melissa Carrillo: So one of the popular, again using the context of Day of the Dead, de los Muertos celebration, one of the things that we learned that was super engaging, having live programming, right, not just going into the space and kind of exploring it, but contextualizing it further through very particular distance learning programs or workshops, that incorporate live web streaming into the 3D space. So depending on the communities or the pilot sites that we partnered with, they would have collaborative outreach events. So for example, if they had an altar demonstration or a blessing in their physical space, they would video stream it live, pipe it into Second Life, into our placita, into our town square. so that our visitors online participating in Second Life in that space were also experiencing that but then we would recreate that event also in the virtual space. So it became a unique activity all into itself in that particular space. I think for us we learned that we're not trying to replicate or simulate something per se but In the virtual space, you are allowed to create new experiences, different experiences that are just as valid as in a real space because it's in real time.

[00:03:29.520] Kent Bye: And so what are some of the main components of being able to express a cultural identity within a virtual world?

[00:03:36.747] Melissa Carrillo: It's kind of tricky and it's been challenging because we want to represent and interpret cultural identity, cultural heritage as authentically as we can. And coming from a traditional institution, there still is that resistance from the traditional to going into this participatory type community that engages social media, and virtual worlds, and then just the whole thing in real time. So it is a little tricky and challenging, but the main thing that we focus on in terms of, as I was going back to the ensuring the authenticity of the representation and interpretation, we always go back to the scholarship, to the collections. I work with a team of fantastic creatives, artists, designers, you name it, but Part of that collaboration also includes working with the curators and the scholars that give us that foundation, right, that backbone in terms of how we're going to go about, how do you talk about cultural identity in this type of space and how do you talk about that through an avatar? How do you authentically represent, for example, a Mayan princess? via an avatar and it's come up in you know our discussions even with Disney in terms of how do they authentically represent you know there's more pressure on us because we're coming from the cultural heritage perspective and we want to ensure and maintain not just that the tradition is represented but of course cultural identity and how do you do that with an avatar and what are some of the strategies again everything from understanding skin tone for avatars, the hair, the types of outfits, making sure that we're always reflecting back to the scholarship. Does that reflect the story that we're trying to tell? And it's not just one story. It's many stories. And it's not just coming from us. So it's purely collaborative in the sense it's collaborative among the creators on the Smithsonian side, on my side and my team. But it's working with community that comes in to engage with us. And they're helping to tell that story because they'll come and they'll tell us, oh, You know, when I was growing up in Mexico or in parts of the United States, I learned about Dia de los Muertos. I learned about the cultural significance, the practice, and I would like to come in here and build an altar. I mean, you all are providing an altar building kit. Can I add to it? Can I personalize it based on my own experience? So that's what we're really looking for. It's not just us telling the stories. This is where that digital transformation that I spoke of last night is key because it's inviting our public, our visitors who we serve, to come share their stories with us.

[00:06:11.797] Kent Bye: So yeah, it does seem like the user-generated content component of some of these projects seems to be a key part of keeping people engaged and really connected to these immersive environments. What type of invitations were you putting out for people to come contribute items into this altar? Like, how did you open up a space and invite people to come contribute to it?

[00:06:34.302] Melissa Carrillo: Well, you know, that was also a challenging moment for us, again, starting out and using the platform of Second Life as a sandbox for us in multi-user virtual worlds environment. And how an entity like the Smithsonian would use this space, again, going back to the tradition of an institution resisting that participatory element, because the institution is so used to being the storytellers, you know, that kind of thing. So Second Life really opened up a lot for us in inviting audiences to come in and share their stories with us. Social media became key in that. We learned. The first two years we were still really experimenting with how are we allowing visitors to come into the space, share their content in the space, because as you know, I mean, it's an open space. People can leave. One year somebody left a giant hamburger that started replicating millions of little hamburgers, and they did it on purpose. So we learned. We learned, okay, so we're going to have to shut down certain security parameters of what you can and cannot do. That became a big headache, but challenging nonetheless. Then we discovered very innovative uses of social media. In the last two years, it really exploded for us because alongside having this event, in this particular platform then we expanded to other platforms using of course Facebook and Twitter standard but using Tumblr and Instagram together and inviting visitors so having social media campaign around the whole entire festival we found that visitors were super comfortable using the social media aspect and sharing their content their images. Tattoo culture is huge in the Day of the Dead phenomenon here in this country and so people really wanted to share their Day of the Dead tattoos with us and so that just kind of exploded in Instagram and even the food culture around Dia de los Muertos. So being able to contribute in the Tumblr and Instagram and then feeding that into Second Life, some of that content by saying, this week we had so-and-so contribute this series of images and we're showcasing them in the Second Life space. So they get like their own little exhibition, so to speak, virtual exhibition. Those were ways that we learned how to invite visitors into the space and to come in and then they would leave messages and tell us, you know, I had a loved one pass on two years ago. Can I dedicate an altar and can I leave the altar here? And so we have a dedicated section where visitors can create their own altars and then leave those altars there for the duration of the festival. and then again then they use that they take pictures of it in Second Life and then they transfer it over into something like Instagram so it then it continues on you see the story continues on so they're telling their story in one space but then it takes off into another space where then they're allowed to build on that and that all comes back to again because we're looking for share your stories and this becomes part of our oral histories and it becomes part of the Smithsonian's digital collection so you know our audiences are contributing to building those collections through their stories.

[00:09:35.566] Kent Bye: There seems to be a very physical component in terms of creating rooms and spaces and art and cultural artifacts that you're populating these virtual immersive spaces with. And so, you know, speak to a little bit of, you know, what is the process that you go through in order to populate these rooms with this cultural artifacts that have a deeper meaning?

[00:09:56.110] Melissa Carrillo: Another challenging aspect, when we first launched in virtual worlds, we fell into the same pitfalls that everybody else did when they were first experimenting in virtual worlds in terms of, from a museum perspective, everybody started looking at it from a bricks and mortar lens and creating buildings and rooms and, you know, here's a 2D representation of a painting here on the wall. And we fell into that. And when we launched in 2009, we had, it was a structure, a building, We had a lobby, it was a huge dome, it was pretty cool, but what did we do? We replicated a building and as soon as we launched, three months later, we blew it up and started from scratch because we found that the most successful part of that build was the town square. Everybody wanted to be out because it was so organic. And, you know, we were having activities and festivities in that space and it became, again, what is a plaza? What is a, you know, a placita? It's a place where people connect, where people meet and gather, right? And they didn't want to go into a lobby, they didn't want to go into a virtual classroom or building so that was a big learning lesson for us and so through the years again expanding to different platforms now we've been using Unity 3D as our baseline for simulations and really looking outside the box and from a museum perspective not replicating okay you go into this room and you're gonna experience the artifacts from the Museum of American Indian from our Central American exhibition that we launched last year. What we ended up doing let's simulate an excavation site where these artifacts actually came from. So we recreated a 3D base camp. You go in, you have an orientation on a deck, you interact with bots, which are robots, artificial avatars that are scripted in such a way, and you get information from them, you get clues, and you go in and you explore the site, the excavation site. There is a sort of a linear path depending on how you choose your selections from that first orientation area. But then again, you're free to go and explore that space on your own and go into the tents and learn about what an anthropologist or archaeologist does. So you learn role-playing too, you get to be a Smithsonian eco-explorer and you get to learn through live Google map that we've scripted in the space where you are, where you're situated and then you get to go and excavate some of the artifacts. So you get an immersive experience in a 3D simulation and then you can also pop out of that and experience the artifacts individually on their own through a 3D viewer. So there's different ways of experiencing the content and different ways of thinking of virtual exhibitions, of even the concept of what a virtual museum is. Even though we say virtual museum, really for us we're looking at a virtual museum as a transmedia hub. So bringing different types of experiences, options, because there's different learners. So it's not a one-size-fits-all. It's what you're most comfortable in terms of what you want to experience and with what.

[00:12:59.970] Kent Bye: And then last night you had a slide of some of the key learnings that you've had over the years and working in virtual spaces. And I think one of them was like, you know, people like to be surprised and maybe you talk about some of those lessons that you've learned over the years of working in these virtual worlds.

[00:13:14.918] Melissa Carrillo: Well, as I mentioned in that particular slide, these were findings at overall Smithsonian through our own evaluation and assessment as an institution as a whole that were similar to our own individual evaluations working within virtual spaces. People do want authentic experiences. but in virtual worlds. So again, it's going back to making sure that we're grounded in the scholarship, making sure that we are maintaining the integrity of the work, of the research, and that it is accurately represented in the 3D space. So again, going back to Day of the Dead, for example. Everything that you encounter during that time period for the festival and you're going through the spirit path or exploring the cemetery, all of the information that you interact with, whether you pick up an object from the altar and you learn, all of that is coming from our curatorial team. that ensures that scholarship so that we're not misrepresenting but at the same time we're allowing visitors to have an authentic experience in this space and to continue to have that experience even beyond so if they go into social media they're going to still have that authentic experience because of the scholarship because it's grounded in scholarship it's not just you know we didn't just come up with stuff and and put it in there.

[00:14:33.092] Kent Bye: And why do you find that people like to be surprised? What is the element of being surprised? Maybe some examples?

[00:14:38.412] Melissa Carrillo: really great question. Why do they want to be surprised? Because they don't want to be talked to, they don't want to be lectured to, they don't want to be told. That's something that was really hard for the institution, still is for, you know, a lot of the traditional curators. Audiences want to go in and they want to be able to discover things on their own without being pointed to or being talked down to, which is so, you know, typical of museums, right? Traditional museums, well, you know, here's this scholarly voice, which is fine, it's fine, but you know, because of the digital revolution, it has given the opportunity for all of us to have a voice. And we want to be surprised. We love the element of surprise. I mean, I get that from students and teachers, you know, that, oh, I didn't expect to go into this space and the Central American Ceramics Base Camp, for example. This was wonderful. I didn't expect to encounter crocodiles in the water and, you know, being able to see actual footage from real film footage within that 3D space where those were elements of surprise and how you can pick up the tools. I mean these are little things but again just being able to think strategically and being on the pulse of what audiences are looking at and part of that is paying attention to social media and understanding because that's where audiences are telling you what they're looking for. Audiences want to have fun. There's nothing wrong with having fun and learning at the same time. And I think we learned a lot from science museums. Science museums have, for many years, really looked at interactivity and engagement hands-on in their spaces. So for the arts and culture to take that on and get away from the elitism of having, you know, you can't touch this and the painting is on the wall. What else can we do to that? What could a level of surprise be for somebody walking into an art museum and being able to pick up a Oculus Rift and putting the headset on and, oh my god, I just experienced this whole thing in 3D and the artist even told a story of how he or she painted that or the sculpture or something. See, that's an element of surprise. Oh, wow. Instead of putting headsets on and taking an audio tour, of a typical exhibition, for example. Imagine putting on an Oculus Rift and taking a tour of an exhibition that way and learning firsthand from the artist, or even the curator, or all of them, and having that element of surprise. Oh, I didn't know that sculpture. Oh, look.

[00:16:55.390] Kent Bye: Yeah, and you had another slide where you're talking about how this digital revolution has really shaken up the core of the foundations of these institutions in terms of ownership and authority. And, you know, maybe talk to that in the sense of this digital landscape in these immersive virtual worlds, how that's changing a lot of the assumptions from the previous paradigm of these types of museum institutions.

[00:17:20.227] Melissa Carrillo: Well, as I mentioned in my talk last night, I mean, there is no doubt that the impact of immersion on the whole realm of cultural heritage, its interpretation and representation of cultural heritage, has definitely challenged the whole traditional curatorial practices. Everything from how we story tell, how we narrate, how the information is disseminated, whether it's a label on the wall, right? All of that has been transformed because of these different digital tools that we've been using. Because it's really expanded the way we think creatively, the way that we communicate, Again, even internally with museums, communicating with one another, having the artists, the curators, the scholars, the educators, the scientists, everybody at the table at the same time, that's not easy. That's not easy and it's important that the work that we're doing breaks down those barriers and it shouldn't be, you know, us against them or our story against it. Everybody is equal at the table in telling the story. or stories, and it becomes important because together we're telling the story, but we're also telling the story with our public. Again, the main point that my team and I were trying to make last night in the slide that I showed, the quote that talked about virtualization, digitization, all of these things that are key in terms of how it's really shattered the foundation of traditional cultural institutions, I mean, this has been going on for more than 10 years, but it's really, in the last seven years, a real substantial shift, as I mentioned, in the way that we do business internally and the way that we communicate externally to our audiences. It's not going away. You know, we either embrace it or we don't. And I think I showed some really good examples of how we've been embracing it. But the whole point of the Arts and Culture Council is to allow not just the Smithsonian, but other cultural institutions and entities to come together and share their stories in terms of their challenges, our challenges. because we don't have all the answers. And so I know that digitization has challenged the authority in some way of curatorial practices in terms of does this object get digitized just on one layer but then doesn't get disseminated and audiences aren't allowed to manipulate it once it's online. It's all of these huge challenges because Now the museum is realizing that the public wants more access to the collections because they can't come to Washington DC, you know, for whatever reason. And so the demand for access is greater and we have to think strategically. And we talked a little bit about it last night, my colleagues did, in terms of So how far do we make the content available because of copyright limitations? Is this artifact or this painting? Can a visitor manipulate this online? And by manipulate, I mean, you know, if it's a 3D object, are they allowed to add to it? Can they contextualize it further in another application? Maybe it's a digital toolkit, can they take it further, we're exploring that and we're pushing those limits but see those are still challenges that we're having to deal with because it challenges the traditional infrastructure of you know here's this wall up, here's the copyright, we can't release this until this is approved or a particular museum may not want their collection to have full access So, again, digital is just pushing, pushing, pushing that because audiences are demanding more access and we just have to respond to that creatively and responsibly.

[00:21:04.302] Kent Bye: And last night, Aaron, founder of the Immersive Education Initiative, said that he had first gotten in contact with you back in 2007, that you were one of the few visionaries that sort of got the power of immersion in terms of education and what it could do with cultural artifacts and what you do with the Smithsonian. And so I'm curious, what was it back then in 2007 that you saw what was to come?

[00:21:28.519] Melissa Carrillo: Well, that's really a great question. Back then, I remember I was sitting in a director's meeting, Smithsonian, and it was during that shift where Smithsonian was really, really trying to understand what was happening with Facebook and social media exploding and how was Smithsonian going to respond to that. Were we going to embrace it? What were we going to do? And they were going around the room with a microphone saying, So what do you think the next 10 years would look like for the museum, for the Smithsonian? What's the museum of the future in 10 years? And I grabbed the microphone and I said, 10 years, how about right now? Everything's shifting now. Things are transforming now. So whether you are not aware of it or not, it's happening. And we have to embrace it and embrace it creatively but responsibly. So back then, in 2007, our particular center was going through a rebranding and a change. And because we're not a physical space, we rely heavily on the virtual space. to expand our mission in terms of ensuring that Latino collections and scholarship, that we have the access available for audiences to learn more about Latino cultural heritage through the different works throughout the Smithsonian. And we knew that the virtual space was a key entry point to that. And before we had launched a virtual gallery, which I launched in 1999 as a fellow, and started to understand the power of the presence online. And so in 2007, I proposed with another colleague that we start seriously thinking about this concept of a virtual museum and what would that mean for us? What does that mean for the institution? Again, thinking away from bricks and mortar and let's just take this and run with it and experiment. And I was one of a handful of new media practitioners at the institution that was running in the underground for the longest time for this digital revolution and we were hit with a lot of resistance from, you know, the traditional curators of scholars about what are we doing, what are we doing in these spaces, you can't be, what are you doing using avatars, you know, and what are you wearing, you know, what are you wearing in that space? So it was really interesting to think back because when I met Aaron in 2008, actually, And we started talking about the possibilities. I found that it was important. We really, really need to partner with industry folks, developers, you know, all the folks that are on the table with, you know, the latest technology so that there is that direct dialogue between the cultural heritage and the innovators in the technology. because what I was seeing back then, and I still see it now, and this is really why I'm pushing for our role in the Arts and Culture Council and pushing for future summits, is that we all need to be on the same page, the same table together, talking about representation and interpretation. If you're a company and you want to work with us, well, you also have to understand What does it mean to tell these stories? And what does it mean to be authentic and stay authentic? This isn't about the technology for technology's sake. But again, it's responding to people want authentic learning experiences. They want the element of surprise. Always going back to the fact that audiences preferred going to Wikipedia than to the Smithsonian homepage or Smithsonian sites. But that tells us a lot. So we learn from that. We embrace it. And what did we do? We partnered with the Library of Congress. and Wikipedia. So now we're part of that to ensure the authenticity, right, to ensure the scholarship is there. So when folks go to Wikipedia, fine, you know, we're part of that too. We're part of that community and so we're embracing it. So yes, it's been an interesting ride and it continues to be so. It's exploding even more in terms of how we're envisioning physical installations, again, beyond art on the wall. And I mean, imagine putting not even the Google Glass, how about contact lenses that further immerse you into a scene? I mean, that's just mind-boggling. And that's already here. It just has not hit the market in terms of how museums would embrace that just yet. But it's an amazing time.

[00:25:37.229] Kent Bye: Yeah, and talking to Jackie Morey, she was saying that in her PhD thesis she was looking at virtual worlds and environments that are being created from like the 90s on and that there was about 70% of them were created by women, which I was really surprised to hear, but I feel like there's some sense where these virtuality environments of creating spaces and interaction and a sense of presence and Relations that are happening within those it seems like it could be a medium that the female sensibility that are going away from Very active violence driven video games, you know to more receptive spaces and I'm not sure if you have any perspective or points of that of being a woman in the in this field of creating these virtual spaces and What your kind of insights are in that?

[00:26:23.023] Melissa Carrillo: That's another interesting question. Yes, I mean part of the lens that I use and with my colleagues as well is again we're looking at these types of technologies and experiences that our general audiences are using. They're in Halo, they're in all these different environments and they're incredibly violent. I mean the visualizations The simulations are amazing, but, you know, what is our role as a cultural heritage institution and what's our role at the Latino Center in terms of how we're telling our stories and how we're representing the collections and, you know, whatnot? It's about responsibility. We don't have to take that avenue of violence or, you know, like the commercial gaming industry does. I mean, they do it. That's commercial. That's how they make money. For us, it goes back to the relevancy and ensuring the authenticity of the work that we're doing. And at the end of the day, it's for us creating meaningful learning experiences for our audiences and ensuring that in some way that when they come into our virtual spaces, whatever that is, our social media, that they are contributing to the stories that we're telling, but that they're also touched in some way. I mean, there is, you mentioned the element of sensibility. Obviously that's key, but I mean we rely and respond to what audiences are looking for too. The platform of Second Life, that wasn't interesting in terms of learning, not in terms of violence or anything like that, but it's its own subculture. I mean, Virtual Worlds has its own subculture and we had to be careful with that as well. But we can't shield ourselves from that either. I mean, I used to get a lot of criticism for being in Second Life because of the violence and other things that were simulated in the space. And I said, but that's the Internet anyway, too. If you were to go into, I mean, the Internet, you go in, it's a portal to everything. It's about teaching responsibility, right? Integrity. And how do we do that in our own space so that we attract the visitors that want to come in and have an authentic learning experience and contribute And, you know, forget about the rest. I mean, yes, we have security parameters in place to prevent things or what have you, but we can't shield ourselves either. We want to teach young people to think responsibly and to participate responsibly in all these different types of spaces. I mean, that's the point and role we're trying to do.

[00:28:47.518] Kent Bye: What do you see as the ultimate potential in terms of what virtual reality can bring? You mentioned the Oculus Rift and Unity, and I'm just curious of where you see the ultimate realization of what you could do with these new immersive technologies?

[00:29:02.825] Melissa Carrillo: Well, that's a loaded question, because there's so much. And the key is, because there's so much, You don't want to just put it all out there because then it comes out too gimmicky and then it just starts to show that it's just technology for technology's sake. There has to be a balance but I think for museums right now the opportunity is tremendous because of stuff like Oculus Rift and the way that we're even using Unity 3D for simulations. There's that other element, that other layer of storytelling, of experience that goes beyond the physical constructs, but the key is finding that balance because it's not about replacing a physical installation or touching the real thing, the artifact, it's augmenting that experience. So I see wonderful things for us in the future in terms of how we're embracing it. I mean, I said it last night, look at the Museum of American Art did a whole exhibition around virtual games, the art of virtual gaming. And what I forgot to mention last night was that that same museum acquired last year Halo and Flowers. Now that is a major milestone for the Smithsonian. They acquired two major video games for their collections. So that's a step in the right direction. That's a good example to show how the Smithsonian is embracing this digital revolution.

[00:30:21.653] Kent Bye: Great. Well, thank you so much.

[00:30:22.874] Melissa Carrillo: Thank you.

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