Online virtual worlds bring history to life

UC Berkeley Journalism professor and recent Knight News Challenge grant recipient Paul Grabowicz and the students of UC Berkeley are on to something big. Their online video game, “Remembering 7th Street,” is a virtual recreation of 1940s and 50s Oakland that will allow users to explore the city as it existed during the jazz and blues era. Read Grabowicz’ interview with Anthony Wojtkowiak of Poynter here.

A similar project, Virtual Lower East Side, allows users to create avatars and take a virtual tour of the neighborhood. Users can chat with others, upload blog entries and upload music and photos.

Recreating a virtual city takes time and a lot of research. Consider creating a virtual tour on a less grand scale such as the animated (and pixelated) Flash-based worlds of Postertronic or the even simpler Google Maps-based Virtual Tourism (check out this Google Map mashup of Independence Hall in Philadelphia. Regardless of how it is done, a tour of a neighborhood or city is better enhanced by user contributions and social interaction.