PhD Project: Shengdan Cai

Loss and Longing – memories and identities in the virtual experience of cultural heritage 

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Shengdan Cai works on understanding how VR spaces can provide cues in triggering memory and a sense of nostalgia in the PhD project “Identity, Memory and Nostalgia with VR”.

We live through the passage of time, and this within the boundaries of our physical dwellings and environments, where our identities are shaped and where memories of social interactions reside. But much like physical matter embodying cultural identities and values, that which dwells in the mind is eroded by time and distractions, particularly in the digital age where short attention spans define the individual. Within cities, rapid economic development threatens the perpetuity of premises, the human need to improve and adapt transforms the dwelling spaces, and as a consequence, the old is continually being replaced by the new. Memories of relationships sweet and bitter embedded within objects distributed within such spaces diminish and, in time, the spaces home to these memories are lost, together with the living beings that used to dwell in them. We use VR technologies to accurately capture and reconstruct local heritage of the near past in our attempts to answer questions on whether memory recollections can occur in virtual spaces. Our aim is to store and share memory spaces across time and space for our future generations. 

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