"Dynamic Media" — IPCC 2003 Plenary Session,
Presented by J. Michael Moshell

Review by Rudy McDaniel

"Dynamic Media" — IPCC 2003 Plenary Session
Presented by J. Michael Moshell

International Professional Communication Conference
September 21 - September 24, 2003
Orlando, FL

[1] The 2003 International Professional Communication Conference invited speakers from all disciplines to submit papers relating to the collection, management, and dissemination of technical and scientific information. IPCC is the professional communication division of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) and is geared towards practicing engineers, technical communicators, scientists, and academics who routinely work with complex data. A typical panel from this conference includes a variety of topics from several different disciplines. For example, on the morning of Wednesday, September 24th, one panel's topic was "Users and Applications in International Environments." This session had speakers presenting papers on visual ethics, storytelling as a form of knowledge management, and using acting methodologies to teach engineers good presentation skills. Following this session, in which four presenters explained their research, I was able to attend the plenary session, "Dynamic Media," which was presented by J. Michael Moshell.

[2] Dynamic Media is an interdisciplinary program focusing on the convergence of art and technology and the distribution of such information in networked environments. Moshell, a Professor of Computer Science and Digital Media at the University of Central Florida, explained the idea of dynamic media through applied examples and research from his own projects and grants. His session included an overview of several research projects generated in the process of building a foundation for Dynamic Media studies.

[3] The central process behind Dynamic Media research is to focus on using modern technology in creative and interesting ways in order to overcome boundaries and create new domains of study. These new domains are realized through the various intersections of art, theatre, textual studies, and science. Such an approach to pedagogy is typical in many modern emergent academic and research organizations. Examples from the University of Central Florida include academic programs such as Dynamic Media and the Texts and Technology Ph.D. program as well as research laboratories including the Media Convergence Laboratory housed in UCF's Institute for Simulation and Training. Each project explained by Moshell was indeed a reflection of an interdisciplinary and collaborative philosophy.

[4] One interesting project that falls into the realm of Dynamic Media is the modeling and simulation of a virtual rainforest. Using mathematical formulas and a body of algorithmic growth research, Moshell and his research team built a software application that allowed users to specify certain parameters and then grow their own virtual rainforest. The virtual rainforest could then be used to teach children about ecosystems and the various plants and animals that would normally accompany such an ecosystem. Moshell explained that while the concept was interesting, the models sometimes produced unexpected and unrealistic biological models that could never be realized in a natural (non-virtual) ecosystem. For example, some growth combinations might spawn an oak tree with palm leaves and pine cones. Revising and modeling these growth patterns and exploring what types of natural arrangements were feasible was a very involved process necessitating input from both biologists and computer scientists.

[5] Another project Moshell explained during his session involved using hypersonic sound to beam sounds. Hypersonic sound focuses audio in order to achieve an auditory pathway from the person transmitting the audio to a specifically targeted person in the audience. This pathway is used in various implementations where a certain precision of sound is needed. A potential application of this technology is found in the movie industry; true hypersonic sound will enable directors to efficiently beam instructions to a particular actor or actress without ever leaving the chair. Unfortunately, the technology of hypersonic sound is not yet perfected, so only sounds originating from a certain origin will work as expected.

[6] Each additional project illustrated by Moshell followed this pattern of intersecting boundaries. There was the VRML-modeled virtual Caracol model (created with archaeologists), the interactive theatre-based Storybox (created with theatre students), and the augmented reality device that mixed virtual reality with physical reality (designed in part to minimize the overpowering feelings of nausea experienced with full-on virtual reality — a term known in virtual reality studies as barfogenesis). Moshell also stressed the critical importance of live interaction in Dynamic Media, as accomplished by using schoolchildren acting as guides for the virtual rainforest or by using trained actors to help guide the narrative outcomes within the Storybox environment.

[7] Whether through combating barfogenesis or by creating new learning environments for schoolchildren, Moshell explained that Dynamic Media technologies have clearly announced their presence to the world. It is clear that mixed-reality technologies are more than simply pedagogical tools or entertaining gimmicks, however, and learning to design or even operate within such environments will be a challenge for us all.

[8] I would highly recommend attending an IPCC conference if you are at all interested in digital media, textual studies, or professional and technical communication. Next year the annual PCS conference will be held in Minneapolis, and the University of Limerick in Ireland is hosting the 2005 conference. The theme for 2004 is "Communication Frontiers." For more information about these conferences, Dynamic Media, or the research and academic programs mentioned in this article, you can visit the webpages listed below. At the time of this writing the 2003 information was still located on the PCS conference webpage, but this should be updated fairly soon with the 2004 information.

More Information:

IPCC 2004 Conference: «http://www.ieeepcs.org/conference»

IPCC 2005 Conference: «http://ieeepcs.org/conference/limerick»

J. Michael Moshell's Homepage: «http://www.cs.ucf.edu/~moshell»

UCF Dynamic Media: «http://www.cas.ucf.edu/news/briefingsheet-dynamic-media.php»

UCF Media Convergence Laboratory: «http://www.mcl.ucf.edu»

UCF Texts and Technology Program: «http://www.textsandtech.org»