Maria C. R. Harrington is an assistant professor of digital media at the University of Central Florida. She is an American information scientist and artist who studies virtual reality for learning, ecological simulation technologies, serious games with respect to causal modeling, human-computer (and environment) interaction in virtual and real space, and immersive new media art with virtual reality.
She has a Ph.D. in information science from the University of Pittsburgh, and undergraduate degrees in art and economics from Carnegie Mellon University where she studied with computer graphics artist pioneer, Harry Holland. Her dissertation, “Simulated Ecological Environments for Education (SEEE): A Tripartite Model Framework of HCI Design Parameters for Situational Learning in Virtual Environments,” investigated the empirical inter-relationships between humans, computers, and the environment. She designed and developed the virtual reality software system, The Virtual Trillium Trail, and discovered: 1) Real Environments show more learning than Virtual, there is transfer from the Virtual to the Real, and Real to the Virtual, thus indicating that the best educational practice is to use the two environments together. 2) That when the content in the Virtual matches the Real, the learning outcomes are the same. 3) There is significant interaction between Visual Fidelity, as a design factor, and Navigational Freedom, as a design factor, and the combined condition of both High Visual Fidelity and High Navigational Freedom results in far superior Knowledge Gained on tests, thus proving that both of these factors must be present to have the greatest impact on learning. 4) There is no interaction of the two factors for Salient Events, or changes in student behavior from exploration to deep inquiry, and the main effect of Visual Fidelity is a critical software user interface design factor for increased informal learning activity, inquiry in virtual reality educational simulations. It alone, is responsible for significantly increasing learning activity. Navigational Freedom, as a factor, shows a strong trend. This one project resulted in several journal publications, Springer Virtual Reality, IEEE Transactions on Learning Technologies, and Children, Youth and Environment, as well as papers published and presented at ACM SIGGRAPH, ACM SIGCHI IDC and ACM DIS, Proceedings of the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society, and the Proceedings of the Conference on Spatial Information Theory.
Her artwork, as both multimedia and photographic prints, has been shown, and sold to private collectors, and promises a new genre of digital media art with virtual reality. Her artwork is an investigation of landscapes, much like the Hudson River School of the past, and Clifford Ross of the present, and explores ideas salient with humans’ connections and responses to the land.
Art website: http://mariacrharrington.com/
Her new research direction is to investigate the factors, from an information processing perspective, that drive individuals and societies to create and the role beauty plays in shaping human feelings, thoughts, and action in both art and science. Virtual reality, when executed as both works of art and as realistic, scientific simulations, are important as they influence scientific, human, social, and cultural transformations and growth, especially into the new and unknown.
Updated: Oct 29, 2016