Simulating a Pandemic: Technology’s Promise & Failure
Project Description

In an interview with Tyrus Miller, University of California, Irvine (UCI) Dean of the School of Humanities, Peter Krapp discusses the simulations of the virus and of the effect of various mitigating strategies alongside certain videogames that likewise thematize the spread of a pandemic (see video on the left). The transcript of the video has been published as a Medium article.

Simulations allow us to make more obvious what humanities scholars and students do all the time, which is to question assumptions and to play around with hypotheticals that make not just stories, books, films or non-fiction accounts, but also board games, roleplay, planning simulations, et cetera, the object of study, of interpretation. The idea that fiction or stories are trivial is an error. The author's question is: What if all of these thought experiments were not only a way to articulate often obscured connections between fiction and simulation, between philosophy and science, between storytelling and critical arguments, but also a way to reconcile those hard science cultures of computing and the artistic or a humanistic tradition of posing critical questions?

The interview is part of COVID-19: The Humanities Respond, a series of interviews with faculty from University of California Irvine's School of Humanities, also portrayed on our website.

Translational Perspective

This project investigates computer simulations that not only offer insight into pandemics but also the means to predict where the current pandemic may go. And while every game is a simulation; not every simulation is a game. Advances in computer graphics that we rely on now are what makes these things tractable and plausible, not just to specialists but also to a more general audience. It’s about storytelling, which is of course the humanities’ domain. These simulations would be incomprehensible, they would not be good communication, they would not be good testing, if they were just restricted to symbols or numbers. So they use a kaleidoscopic range of infographics, of displays, and other ways to convey very complex data. That’s something that the game industry has been pushing further and further and further, not just in terms of graphics but also in forms of interactive storytelling

Peter Krapp
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University of California, Irvine
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krapp [at]

Irvine, California, USA