VRAASP is an MSCA-funded postdoctoral fellowship project proposed by Kristina Wolfe at the University of Huddersfield under the supervision of Professor Rupert Till. The acronym stands for using Virtual Reality and Archaeoacoustic Analysis to Study and exhibit Presence.
The aim of this project is to contribute new knowledge on the phenomenology and psychoacoustics of archaeological spaces, and will also improve the experience of virtual public exhibitions through the promotion, dissemination and experience of virtual archaeological spaces imbued with their original sense of presence. Unusual acoustic signatures of ancient or historical spaces have captured the public imagination for centuries. Attentive listeners often hear or feel a presence or resonance within such acoustic spaces, sometimes described as an otherness, a shimmer or glow, or an audio-visual aesthetic experience of the space. There is evidence that this sense of presence is brought on by the perceptual conflation of where and what streams of information in the brain. Other acoustic incongruities (such as infrasound) play a role in the experience of spaces and the acoustic experience of presence contributes to the phenomenology of historical and archaeological sites. The perception of presence is especially common in historically sacred locations (and shimmer is a characteristic descriptor of the spiritual realm), and thus acoustic analysis of the phenomenology of presence provides insight into the source of this experience.
Acousticians, composers, and acoustic archaeologists have studied acoustic phenomena in specific and general archaeological sites previously, and archaeologists have compiled 3D models of archaeological sites for cultural preservation and exhibition purposes. These models have only recently begun to be used to study the acoustics of these spaces, and they have never been used to study sound presence. In the proposed project, 3D models will be used in combination with new media, computer game, and Virtual Reality (VR) technologies to systematically study and uncover specific acoustic qualities that influence a mystical experience of place, and the ER will use these technologies to engage in creative practice-led research on the phenomenology and acoustic archaeology of space.