Let’s develop immersive multimedia experiences about history - Interview with Darius Arya “multi-platform” archaeologist (18th November 2014)

(This post is part of a serie on GDG Rome DevFest 2014)


Agatino Grillo: Hi Darius, can you tell us a few words about yourself?

Darius Arya: I am an American classical archaeologist. I studied in Italy and the USA (Ph.D. University of Texas at Austin) and have been residing in Rome for over 15 years.  I’m living history every day, and I love it! I am the CEO and co-founder of the American Institute for Roman Culture (AIRC) a US non-profit organization that provides students with a full immersion into modern Italian culture while learning about the past in university accredited programs and excavations.  Our collaborations with the city and Ministry of Culture have set us apart, as have our visual communications efforts to promote and preserve Italian heritage.

Agatino Grillo: You were a speaker to the Google Developer Group (GDG) Fest on 8th November in Rome. Why a classical archaeologist in the environment of computer nerds?

Darius Arya: GDG DevFests are large, community-run events that can offer speaker sessions across multiple product areas. I am thrilled to talk with this kind of audience, far removed from the standard archaeology circles, because I’m excited about what these innovators can create. My talk focused on Rome’s history through social and digital media like YouTube, Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and so on.  I presented a couple of videos, our new “Ancient Rome Live” project and conservation effort, “Save Rome: Preserving the Eternal City in the 21st Century”, to explain the idea that we can we can better preserve our common history and heritage through new media outlets.  YouTube offers a great venue combined with other learning platforms and applications.

Agatino Grillo: So you are a sort of multi-platform archaeologist?

Darius Arya: I like to define myself as an “archaeologist, TV documentarian, and social media influencer”. Each activity feeds the other. The core is my academic background in close collaboration with my AIRC colleagues and our partnerships, together with our online project of sharing information in a more accessible, and engaging, way.  In recent years we have been working to translate my TV archaeological experiences into an original, and more “immersive” media experience with new social networks and our videos produced on site.


Agatino Grillo: This sounds very Google compliant. What were the reactions from Google developers to your speech?

Darius Arya: All the speakers of Google conference exhibit innovative projects about these related  immersive experiences: Serenza Zonca illustrated the theme of virtual storytelling, Sergio Paolini spoke about new technologies in operating room, Antonella Blasetti demonstrated the “Google Night Walk” an immersive tour of Marseille with Street View photos and an audio guide. All presentations aimed to imagine how create new experiences of immersive media with rich interactive elements keeping people engaged in new media and at the same time offering more knowledge. I would be very keen to develop something similar to the Marseille Street View project in Rome; we’ve already been discussing with Google this past year to put some other lesser known sites on Google Street View - I’ve always advocated that more content is necessary to engage an active, mobile audience: with relevant images, text, video! And Google is doing it now with Marseille - so yes, we’d love to get involved!

Agatino Grillo: Next steps?

Darius Arya: I hope that after we launch in 2015 we will be able to scale up “Ancient Rome Live” through a community of engaged programmers, students, experts from many disciplines, including history, the classics, mass communications, journalism, and art and design capable to invent new tools to reproduce immersive experiences in different professional fields.

Agatino Grillo: Thanks Darius

Darius Arya: Thank you very much!

How to contact Darius

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