March 16: “Oyster City” Augmented Reality Game Guides Users on Coastline Tour

This image shows the cover and a map for the augmented reality app "Oyster City."
Meredith Drum’s augmented reality walking tour “Oyster City” helps users learn about the ecological, social, and historical importance of oysters. Image courtesy of Meredith Drum.

For some of us, a plate of raw oysters is a delight. Others quickly head for a different appetizer. But oysters play much more important roles in the world than simply tempting or repelling human consumers.

Interdisciplinary artist and Virginia Tech School of Visual Arts faculty member Meredith Drum will share her recent project “Oyster City AR” at 7 p.m. Wednesday, March 16, in Performance Room C of the Creativity and Innovation District (CID) residence hall common space, 185 Kent Street, Blacksburg.

During Drum’s presentation, “Oyster City AR: The past, present and future of oysters in NYC’s harbor,” she will describe her process of creating the augmented reality walking tour and show documentation of “Oyster City AR” working on Governors Island in New York City.

Oysters were once so plentiful in the waters surrounding New York City that they were a staple in the diets of people from every walk of life. Overharvesting and pollution of their habitat resulted in population collapses—but pollution regulations and restoration projects are helping these shelled creatures make a comeback. And oysters are helping the aquatic ecosystems in and around New York City recover, too. As filter feeders, they clean water, and as sedentary creatures, they create habitats for other species.

“Oyster City AR” helps users experience the rise and fall and rise of oysters in New York City and its surrounding estuaries. The AR app is focused on the ecology of the harbor in relation to oysters as both a keystone species, helping to define an entire ecosystem, and an economic, historical, and social product. “Oyster City AR” highlights the importance of oyster reefs as potential flood blockers and agents of bioremediation.

“Oyster City AR” users are invited to visit nine key sites across Governors Island, NYC, where they can interact with augmented reality elements, 3-D virtual objects visible through the camera on a mobile device, as well as with audio and texts. The project allows participants to learn and play as they explore the Governors Island coastline.

Drum works with many mediums, including video, animation, installation, augmented reality, and various modes of public participation. Her projects center around the cultivation of care for others, both human and nonhuman, and are influenced by cinema history, climate justice, her family, friends and cats, multispecies anthropology, swimming in the ocean, cultural studies, walking in the woods, inter-sectional feminism, science fiction, contemporary visual culture, and riding bikes with loved ones.

Drum’s work has been supported by grants and residencies from the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council, the Bronx Museum of the Arts, the Atlantic Center for the Arts, iLand (Interdisciplinary Lab for Art, Nature + Dance), the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, the Wassaic Project, the Experimental Television Center, ChaNorth, ISSUE Project Room, the University of California Institute for Research in the Arts, HASTAC, and Wave Farm Transmission Arts + the New York State Council on the Arts.

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