Resonant: A VR Experiment in the Humanities

by Burcu Tung
January 11, 2019

I’ve been tremendously excited on the news of a recent award CyArk received from the NEH. This is a prototyping grant to develop Resonant,  a VR game utilizing our extensive documentation of the Balcony House cliff dwelling at Mesa Verde. In fact, our proposed project was one of the few grants featured on NEH’s press release. We submitted the grant in collaboration with FableVision, a multi-media production studio based in Boston creating works that, in their own words, “inspire teach, and move people to action”.




The aim of Resonant is to convey the multiple narratives of Balcony House that make it the incredible heritage site that it is today. Learners will be exploring the site, solving puzzles, and interfacing with different characters. In this way, they will be unlocking different histories related to the Ancestral Pueblo people, the archaeological investigations of the site, and the Pueblo peoples who are the descendents of the ancient occupants of Mesa Verde.  Learners will finish the game with a better understanding of ‘place’ as a concept and how cultural sites remain powerful spaces over multiple time periods. We hope that this empowers learners to build deeper connections between the past and present.


During the development of Resonant, we will work very closely with a Native American advisory board who will shepherd our narrative development so that we can convey different aspects and histories of Balcony House that are relevant to the Native American community. The layered histories of Mesa Verde is complex. Many Americans still perceive the Ancestral Pueblo People to have been vanished. But this couldn’t be further from the truth. 26 indigenous groups, many of them Pueblo peoples, have cultural affiliations with Mesa Verde. Further, different tribes have different relationships with Mesa Verde. For some, like the Ute who are today in Northern Colorado due to forced relocation by the US government, view Mesa Verde as their historic land. Other tribes, such as the Zuni and the Hopi have oral histories as well as cultural practices that tie them to Mesa Verde. Resonant will be a unique opportunity to present these different histories within an educational context.


The exploration of such core humanities subjects through the utilization of CyArk’s immense collection of data inspires me. While undoubtedly in many contexts, data is utilized to structure narratives, narratives can also bring life to data. Stories and narratives make such digital data, and CyArk’s work, relevant to different communities across the world.