Cogut Institute for the Humanities
Center for the Study of the Early Modern World

2020 Research and Teaching Report: Massimo Riva

Massimo Riva has a project in progress: Italian Shadows. A Curious History of Virtual Reality (Digital Monograph). A Pilot Project of the Brown Digital Publications Initiative. This is an archaeological exploration of virtual reality revolving around eight optical-enhancing devices from the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, such as a magic lantern, moving panorama, or stereoscope.

Digital project snapshot


Readers will have two navigation options: They can move through this digital monograph horizontally, following the text with its embedded simulations and illustrations as well as its many links to networked multimedia; or they can proceed modularly, choosing to engage immediately with any one of the interactive simulations. The horizontal method may be preferable for scholarly readers interested in all the nuances of the argument developed in the long-form narrative. The modular approach may be more attractive for readers who prefer to chart their own path – the excitement of curiosity is also a main facet of the devices discussed in this work – yet it will also be useful for scholars wishing to drill down on the simulations to evaluate the author’s argument. The objective is to establish a reciprocal relationship between the text and the simulations, with each making the critical goals of the other not only more accessible and clear but also more compelling. Italian Shadows is forthcoming with Stanford University Press.

Prof. Riva's courses are linked to web projects to which students and other scholars can actively contribute. These are The Decameron WebProgetto Pico, and Garibaldi & the Risorgimento.