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This week in our Images Shaping History blog series, Resident Blogger Eric Winter takes our conversation in a new direction with a discussion about technology. Certainly, the advent of the printing press, motion picture technology, television, and more modern digital technologies all represent watersheds in the ways we view and interact with history. In Holograms & History, Eric notes the realism in this technology and then wonders how this technology might shape our interaction with the past.


Resident Blogger Eric Winter

At the Coachella Music Festival last year, for the first time in over 16 years, Tupac Shakur performed live in front of a shocked audience. Given that Tupac was murdered in 1996, this seems like an impossibility. But indeed, on April 15th, 2012 ,a historical figure appeared to rise from the dead to perform with Snoop Dogg and Dr. Dre. No, he wasn’t a zombie. He wasn’t a ghost. He wasn’t a figment of the audience’s collective imagination. He was a hologram.

Thanks to hologram technology which uses a computer generated image displayed on a piece of glass, thousands of people were able to interact with a live Tupac Shakur. How, if at all, does this technology shape our interaction with historical figures, the past, or our concept of history?

Over a decade and a half after his death, Tupac Shakur performs live in front of thousands of fans. Even though we know that Tupac has passed, how does this live performance shape the way we interact with our concept of the past? {Source: http://digitaldomain.com/projects/271}

Digital Domain Media Group, the company behind the Tupac hologram, combined video with images of Tupac and then used computers to engineer a very life like Tupac Shakur. The hologram even duplicates Tupac’s body language and allows him to interact with his former partner Snoop Dog and Dr. Dre. If Digital Domain Media Group were able to recreate a Tupac performance for entertainment sake, what else can be recreated in the name of history?

Below is the video of Tupac’s posthumous performance. In the video you can clearly see that Tupac appears life-like.

{Warning: this video contains a significant amount of profane language.}

In the evolution of learning and communication, we have had books, then radio, film, and television as ways to learn about the past.  This new hologram technology could be a new way to view and learn and interact with history.  It almost allows us to experience important events firsthand. Historical events once seen by only the people of a specific time period can now be shared and appreciated by modern society.

Imagine being in the National Mall for Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I Have a Dream Speech.”

In theory, now we don’t have to imagine it. What would it be like to stand in 2013 and list to a speech from 1963?

How would this change the way we view historical ideas and historical figures? Would it change not only our understanding of the past but our perception of the past?

With this new form of technology we can see  body language and emotion in a very realistic 3D image. Instead of watching history on a box or a screen we can watch it in action—almost interact with the past.

What do you think. . .?

Is this new hologram technology something you would be interested in seeing?

Is this a viable new form of technology?

Would hologram technology change how we interact with history? 

Until Next Time,


Read Eric’s first blog: From Body Snatchers to the Terminator: How History Impacts Villains in Film.