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Ghosts of the Horseshoe

The University of South Carolina is the site of one of the most intact “landscapes of slavery” in the United States. Situated at the heart of the modern campus, the historic Horseshoe is what remains of the original South Carolina College (1801-1865). Yet the students, faculty, administrators, and visitors, who traverse these grounds today are for the most part unaware of its complex history.

Ghosts of the Horseshoe, a mobile interactive application, or “critical interactive,” deploys game mechanics, as well as Augmented Reality (AR) and GPS functionality, in order to generate awareness of and questioning about this historic grassy space at the center of the USC campus. It draws participants into relation with history and historical figures by turning the mobile micro screen into a “window” onto the past, one whose real-time image responds to touch, gesture, and location.

In this way, Ghosts uses the power of the digital experience to “fill in the gaps” where institutional history and habitual thinking fall short. Not just the digital but more specifically, the mobile and, therefore, embodied experience facilitates a deeper empathy with the past that otherwise is easily overlooked. For example, it is not just that one imagines the work of slaves forming, firing, and carrying bricks and, subsequently, building a wall. Rather, one becomes capable of comprehending in situ the daily labor done by slaves to create the Wall that stands physically before her today. In the process, she relates to the built environment differently. She “sees” a division of labor rather than just an old wall.

The cognitive difference the app aims to elicit has to do with understanding the abiding affect of this “peculiar institution” on the landscape of the present University, and a new habit of thinking is made possible.

 

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