Derek Ham

Forming Spatial Narratives

MIT Architecture | Fall 2020 Lecture Series
In collaboration with the Design and Computation Group
6:00 PM, webcast

In building VR experiences Derek Ham draws on his architectural education as well as theoretical approaches found in design + computation. Together they enable him to develop a methodology for VR storytelling different from most. His storytelling follows a system of variables, rules, and schemas. As a result, the virtual narratives he creates evokes strong emotional responses from viewers.  In 2017, Derek was funded by Oculus (by Facebook) to complete a VR project called “I Am A Man.”  The VR project centers on the Civil Rights, the 1968 Memphis Sanitation Worker’s Strike, and last days of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.  This VR experience has been broadly celebrated for its achievement in the use of this new technology to communicate history in a meaningful way. The project has been featured at film festivals nationally and internationally including the SIGGRAPH 2018 Virtual, Augmented and Mixed Reality Program. “I Am A Man” won the Perspectives Award for Immersive Storytelling at the 42nd Cleveland International Film Festival, won VR Best of Show at the 2108 Nashville Film Festival, and was the winner of the 2018 FoST Prize for the category, “Bridging the Divide.” His next VR project, “Barnstormers: Determined to Win” is now in pre-production as a winner of the Epic Game’s Mega Grant program and the Pitch and Produce program by Reallusion.


Derek Ham

Derek Ham, PhD is an Associate Professor and Department Head of Art + Design at NC State University’s College of Design. His research expertise spans the areas of game-based learning, algorithmic thinking, and immersive media. He completed his doctoral work in Design Computation from MIT, holds a Master’s in Architecture from Harvard’s Graduate School of Design, and a Bachelor of Architecture from Hampton University. As the founder of the Mixed Reality Lab at the College of Design he continues to investigate both virtual reality (VR) and augmented realty (AR) technology to find ways these tools can expand the possibilities of human interactions. In 2019 the NC State University also invested in the lab’s spin out company Logic Grip Inc. as a startup that produces VR content and develops new VR hardware and peripheral devices. 

Image credits

01 Derek Ham portrait. Courtesy of Derek Ham

02 “I Am A Man” VR Experience, created and directed by Derek Ham in partnership with Oculus

03 “I Am A Man” VR Experience, created and directed by Derek Ham in partnership with Oculus 

04 “I Am A Man” VR Experience, created and directed by Derek Ham in partnership with Oculus