Smith, Fleming receive Layman awards
calendar icon09 Sep 2021
Lincoln, Neb--Two professors in the Johnny Carson Center for Emerging Media Arts each received Layman Awards from the UNL Office of Research & Economic Development for their research projects.
Assistant Professor of Emerging Media Arts Ash E. Smith and Assistant Professor of Emerging Media Arts Jesse Fleming each received $10,000 Layman Awards. Layman Awards provide funding for projects that will enhance the grantee’s ability to obtain external funding to support prominent scholarly work.
Smith’s project is titled “Seabreeze Bop City.” It’s a pilot project for an augmented reality-enabled immersive storytelling application that will showcase the history and speculative futures of Seabreeze, North Carolina. The project is a collaboration between the Carson Center, the School of Architecture founded by Frank Lloyd Wright (under Chris Lasch’s direction), and Land Rich, a non-profit organization working on land loss issues and heirs’ property connected to historically African American communities. Ben Kreimer, an alumnus of the UNL College of Journalism and Mass Communications is also involved with the project.
Smith says they are working in a area they are calling “place-based storytelling.”
“Right now, students enrolled in my EMAR 331/332 Innovation Studio course are working on creating a proof of concept here in Lincoln using a mixed bag of techniques from Unreal Engine to using 360 degree cameras,” Smith said. “This is two-semester course, where this semester we are developing ideas and prototypes. Next semester, we will work on building out the media project and travel to North Carolina through the support of the Global Innovation Fund.”
Seabreeze Bop City is a pilot project for Smith and Kreimer.
“Ben and I both have backgrounds in non-fiction storytelling and are excited about how emerging technologies such as data, drones and photogrammetry and AR and GPS can allow us to blur the physical and digital—the ‘phygital,’” Smith said. “Ultimately we are interested in how storytelling and the edges of non-fiction and fiction can build preferable futures through creating both immersive place-based stories coupled with accessible online content.”
Fleming’s project is “Sense Experience,” a mindfulness-based intervention (MBI) and virtual reality (VR) training tool for the treatment of anxiety and depression, as well as general emotional regulation and establishing techniques for psychological grounding. This project is in partnership with the Center for Brain, Biology and Behavior (CB3) at UNL.
“Our hypothesis is that the combination of VR and MBI might create significant improvements in mental wellbeing through interaction and training within an immersive learning MBI platform,” Fleming said. “More generally, we are curious if Mindfulness based interventions (MBI’s) achieve higher efficacy if implemented within a virtual reality environment and therefore serve as a new technological research tool that may help scale mental health services within the United States.”
Fleming is grateful for the Layman Award support.
“It was a wonderful showing of success and support to be awarded this Layman seed grant,” he said. “This is a catalyst that will support my lab’s research portfolio and enables time and tools to get for the snowball and roll it down the hill. We already have our eyes on several additional mechanisms and are thrilled to get moving on our prototype.”