Future Landscapes: Participant Experiences – Patrick Collins

Future Landscapes was an intensive four-week, full-time workshop created in a collaboration between the Moore Institute and Galway 2020, and run by the School of Machines, Making and Make-Believe. This is the third in a series of posts by NUI Galway-based participants who reflect on their experience with the programme.

Dr Patrick Collins is a Lecturer in Economic Geography in the School of Geography and Archaeology at NUI Galway.


For the month of May we took the opportunity to immerse ourselves in a technology movement. We were introduced to new and emerging technologies in the field of augmented and virtual reality by the School of Machines, Making and Make believe. With a variety of instructors from an even greater variety of backgrounds we were given a very unique take on new technology from aspects beyond the technical.

Some weeks after the event and with the benefit of hindsight, I see that the overall ethos of reflection on the broader impacts of new technologies was the key learning from the course. A crash course in programming through the use of Unity software was extremely helpful, but it only served as the practical application of the broader themes that were reflected on over the four weeks of the course.

The concept of world building was used to introduce the course. While broad, it helped us all think beyond our usual confines. Alongside this techniques were demonstrated as to how best to use various technologies to aid the process of world building. This acted as the ideal segue into the gaming engine software Unity. Unity is a free software but extremely powerful. Kudos to the teachers, Meredith and Christian for their crash course that helped us get to grips with the basics.

The endpoint of the course was the mixed reality showcase. Here we had the opportunity to reflect our own personal interests in the development of a project for public display. Prior to the advent of the course, I could never have envisaged the derivation of the project I ended up with. While I was happy with the end result I was most happy with the fact that the project itself was inspired by the four week learning process.

All in all, what two months before the start of it seemed like something interesting to what two days before it commencing felt like a burden (in terms of time) proved to be a month very well spent. I believe I have made connections, gained insights and with the ultimate development of the project also added to my research base. I am extremely grateful to the organisers and those that delivered this course. I feel that the month was an ideal amount of time to spend in lifting the lid on this fascinating area. I also feel that the opportunity for engaging with and developing an output at the end of the process will help serve future investigations in the area. Again, many thanks to those that participated and delivered what was an experience I could highly recommend.