History in Virtual Reality: Re-Producing Debates on Electing the President at the Philadelphia Convention of 1787

Friday, April 16, 2021, 2:00 PM - 3:30 PM

Type: Workshop

Tags: Legal and Constitutional; Politics; Public History and Memory


Pre-registration required

Limited to 60 people

Registrants will be given the opportunity to view and experience the virtual reality application ahead of the conference. This will allow for a better understanding and visceral comprehension of the historical and innovative content of the work to be presented and discussed at the workshop. Some time before the workshop, the authors will communicate with all registrants and provide instructions on how to download and run the application. Note that a virtual reality headset (Oculus Rift S) and a capable computer will be needed to run it. 

This panel explores the process of adapting historical methodologies and scholarship to the medium of virtual reality (VR). Panel members have brought professional specialties in history, theater, and engineering together to create an immersive experience from the debates on how to elect the president that took place at the Constitutional Convention of 1787. Panel discussion will address the challenges of VR staging, production, and engineering, its educational and academic applications, and the strengths and weaknesses of VR for presenting and interpreting history. 

Session Participants

Chair and Commentator: Nadine Zimmerli, University of Virginia Press
Nadine Zimmerli is the editor for history and social sciences at the University of Virginia Press. She holds a Ph.D. in history from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where she also began her career in academic publishing at the University of Wisconsin Press, assisting with the George L. Mosse Series in the History of European Culture, Sexuality, and Ideas. For a decade, she worked in the books program of the Omohundro Institute of Early American History and Culture at William & Mary. At UVA Press, she now oversees diverse lists on American, South African, and early modern German history as well as series on American politics centered on the presidency, the courts, and race relations.  

Panelist: Kevin R. Hardwick, James Madison University
Kevin R. Hardwick is professor of history at James Madison University, and also a long-time professor on the faculty of the James Madison Memorial Foundation Summer Institute.  He teaches courses in early American, Atlantic, and Constitutional history, and has edited three books, including most recently The American Debate over Slavery, 1760-1865 (Hackett Press, 2016).  His most recent research focuses on the intellectual origins of the electoral college.

Panelist: Warren R. Hofstra, Shenandoah University
Warren R. Hofstra is Stewart Bell Professor of History at Shenandoah University in Winchester, Virginia.  In addition to teaching in the fields of American social and cultural history and directing the Community History Project of Shenandoah University, he has published more than fifty papers and written or edited nine books including in part The Planting of New Virginia: Settlement and Landscape in the Shenandoah Valley (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2004); Shenandoah Landscapes and the Great Valley Road of Virginia (University of Virginia Press, 2010); Ulster to America: The Scots-Irish Migration Experience (University of Tennessee Press, 2011); and “Sweet Dreams”: The World of Patsy Cline (University of Illinois Press, 2013).  His long-term research program focuses on the regional history of the Shenandoah Valley in Virginia as a field of inquiry in a large-scale investigation of American capitalism and material culture.  He is also engaged in an effort employing immersive technology to present elements of the debate at the Constitutional Convention of 1787 on electing the president in a virtual reality format that draws participants into real-time experiential and learning environments and accounts for the creation of the electoral college.

Panelist: Mohammad F. Obeid, Shenandoah University
Mohammad F. Obeid is an Assistant Professor and the director of the Virtual Reality Design program at Shenandoah University's Division of Applied Technology. He holds a PhD and MS in Modeling and Simulation Engineering from Old Dominion University and a BS in Industrial Engineering from the German-Jordanian University. His research and recent career revolve around synthetic environments and medical-oriented simulations. In a general sense, his interests encompass extended reality (XR) platforms, interactive and predictive surgical and medical simulation, computer-assisted interventions, and multi-dimensional immersive environments to support decision making.

Panelist: JJ Ruscella, Shenandoah University
PROFILE I have spent a lifetime looking at the world through the lens of theatre.
Shenandoah Center for Immersive Learning (SCIL), Shenandoah University
Founder of the SCIL lab, an immersive learning AR/VR/XR student-run production company, driven by a brain trust of industry experts. The SCIL lab empowers others to create human-to-human connectivity within mixed realities, transforming ideas into living experiences through immersive technology. Responsible for supervision of faculty, staff, and students in the creation of these immersive experiences.
Shenandoah University Conservatory – Theatre Division 2012- 2018
Created new acting curriculum for one of the oldest conservatories in the country. Supervise faculty and oversee program initiatives. Artistic Direction of dramatic play season, including play selection and director assignments.
ARTISTIC DIRECTOR Shenandoah University Holiday Gala 2012- 2018
Produce/Direct/Write and serve as Master of Ceremonies for annual Shenandoah University donor honoring event. Responsible for annual cast and crew of approx. 200 ranging from an 85-piece orchestra and 70-person chorus to choreographed dance numbers and special guest artists.
KRS Media Group, Orlando, Florida 2001- 2018
Producing entertainment that illuminates the Spirit of Christmas, for kids ages 1-99. KRS Media is an intellectual property holding company for the original story The Making of a Saint.
Designed, built, staffed, and executed new educational division for the State Theatre of North Carolina, including launching a new initiative in filmmaking. Garnered $300K donation for education; gave away over $50K in scholarships to underprivileged youth. Created statewide initiative to place arts education in elementary schools throughout the state of North Carolina, currently in its second beta form. Created partnership projects with 12 children-centered non-profit organizations, including United Way, Children and Family, and Boys’& Girls’ Club of America.
INTERIM CHAIR Shenandoah University Conservatory – Theatre Division Fall 2014
Chosen to step-in for Division Chair’s sabbatical after only two years of residence at SU. Supervised budget, staff, and faculty for 16 person academic division.
Salfi Law, Altamonte Springs, Florida 1998-Present
Specializing in witness preparation and theme development.
University of Central Florida, Orlando, Florida 1996-2008
Designed and taught classes for the Theatre and Film Departments ranging from three hundred seat lectures to specialized graduate performance classes. Director and Founder of the Interactive Performance Lab in collaboration with the School for Film and Digital Media which created new techniques for next-generation simulation actors and developed new forms and models for the innovative fields of live action simulation and immersive theater.
New York Film Academy, Disney MGM Studios, Florida 2001-2006
Designed and implemented program/curriculum for hands-on filmmaking summer intensive.
Only Productions, Altamonte Springs, Florida 1989-1990
Created professional, original, and innovative live theatrical performances for the
Central Florida arts community and provided creative consulting services to private clientele.
New Brunswick, New Jersey— MFA, 1996

Tampa, Florida — BFA, 1993

Lake Mary, Florida — AA, 1991
BACKGROUND As a theatre artist I tell stories through the action and interaction of human beings. Mediums utilized include: experiential learning, film, stage, and web interactive, live simulation and court trials among others.
RECENT HONORS Festival Winner Skyline Indie Film Festival “The Karaoke King” Director/Producer 2013 Novel published in Books-a-Million stores across the United States “Kris: the Legend Begins” 2012
Winner Bronze Telly Award for Directing and Writing “Santa Talks” 2012

“Romeo and Juliet,” SU, 2015
“Crimes of the Heart,” Flat Rock Playhouse, 2015
“Holiday Gala,” SU, 2014
“The Diviners”, SU, 2014
“To Kill a Mockingbird”, SU, 2014, Part of Mocking Bird Project with SU History Dept. and the NAACP
“Holiday Gala,” SU, 2013
“Summer and Smoke”, SU, 2013
“Holiday Gala,” SU, 2014
“25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee”, SCC, 2012
“God’s Country”, UCF, 2004
“The Diviners”, UCF, 2002
Orlando International Fringe Festival, “Strike-Out” Fundraiser, 2002
Diversity Showcase, UCF, 2001
“When You Comin’ Back Red Ryder”, UCF, 2001
“The Last Rave: Tortoise in the Sun”, Only Productions, 1999-Present
“Sex, Drugs, Rock n’ Roll”, Director, Only Productions, 1998-1999
Fall Showcase, UCF, 1997, 1998
“Halloween Extravaganza 1998”, Only Productions, 1998, Premiere
“Breeder”, Only Theatre, 1998
Seminole Community College Corp. Presentation, Only Productions, 1997
IRDG Corp. Presentation, Only Productions, 1997
“Driving Miss Daisy”, Ritz Theatre, 1997
“Lone Star”, Loft Theatre, 1993
“Theatre Games”, USF, 1993, Premiere
“The Hellbound Heart”, USF, 1992, International Premiere
“Luna Sonata”, USF, 1992, Premiere
“Talk Radio”, USF, 1992
“Under Milkwood”, FAT Theatre, UCF, Assistant Director and Stage Manager

“Short Film Project,” SU, 2015
“Miss Julianne”, Independent Short, based on August Strindberg’s “Miss Julie” 2008
“Karaoke King”, full-length SAG feature film 2007
“Kris: The Making of a Saint”, Teaser, 2004

“The Actor’s Digital Reel,”, Southern Theatre Magazine, Winter Issue 2014
“Marc Mero Story”, contract writer for screenplay
“Kris the Legend Begins”, Novel published nationally in Books-a-Million 2012, Higher Life Publishing
“Wheeler”, Director of Development for screenplay, Peter Built Productions
“Santa is Real: The Unknown Stories of a Boy Named Kris”, published 2005,
Limited Collectors Edition, story by JJ Ruscella
“The Shakespearean I-ching”, currently under development
“Kris: The Making of a Saint”, Screenplay and Story by J.J. Ruscella - WGA Registered Screenplay
“The Karaoke King”, story by JJ Ruscella - WGA Registered Screenplay

Shenandoah University Conservatory – Assistant Professor 2012- Present
Seminole State College - Adjunct Professor - 2009- 2011
University of Central Florida – Assistant Professor – Tenure track, 2000-2008
University of Central Florida – Visiting Professor, 1999-2000
University of Central Florida – Adjunct – Film, 1998-1999
University of Central Florida – Adjunct – Theatre, 1996-1999
New York Film Academy – Disney MGM Summer Intensive – Program Director 2001-2006
Seminole Community College – Summer Student Program, Program Director/Instructor, 1997
Seminole Community College – Adult High School, 1996-1997
Princeton Review – SAT – Verbal Prep, 1996-1997
Village Playhouse – Summer Theatre Program – Director Coach, 1995
Rutgers University – GTA, 1995
LMDA Summer Performing Arts Program, 1993