In this section we are exploring a series of questions.
This page will support the research in the Global Languages & Cultures Room, providing space for development of reflective practice, ideation and comment.
VR is a nascent technology, emerging from the development of 3D, gaming and mobile technology. It is no accident that one of the largest investors in this area is a social media company, understanding how suggestible a user can be in a truly immersive environment, how much easier it is then to make them view, feel and perhaps even buy.
The headset manufacturers are turning to the games industry to create experiences, something that is problematic in the treatment of certain subject matter, their skills not tuned to the sensitivity and language of journalism or screenwriting. Content that is being produced by news agencies, including The Guardian and New York Times enlists photojournalist attuned to framing and capturing a scene.
Critical discourse in cinema, television, documentary and feature film is now established and we are able to better critique language through choices of shot, framing, editing and sound design; this new way of storytelling, one that again that is being formed and developed demands a different approach.
There is sophisticated content out there, such as “I Am A Man” an interactive virtual reality experience set to the historic events of the African- American Civil Rights Movement or Vrse.works’ “Clouds over Sidra” which immerses you in the world of Sidra, a 12-year-old Syrian Refugee living in Za’tari refugee camp in Jordan. These experiences which work to create empathy in the mind of the viewer are few and far between. Much of what can be viewed is unambitious in scope, it merely wants to put you there, show you something, amaze you with grand views or visuals but fails to deliver much meaning. There’s little that will challenge, engage or stay with you longer than the experience itself.
Questions need to be asked around the language of VR. We need to better understand the concept of POV, how loaded is that in terms of the choices already made for us and the illusion of choice in a VR experience. Is the narrator reliable?
There is a lack of critical discourse around VR currently, these are experiences that will benefit from richer reading, by viewers asking questions and challenging themselves. The healthy skepticism of a demanding audience seems to have bypassed VR. We don’t only need to recognize the differences between experiences, but understand the intentions of the creators and hear their distinct voices.
Can an immersive experience of a foreign country better prepare you for a visit to that country?
In language learning and cultural study we ask how do you avoid being the tourist and how can you interact and integrate in a meaningful way? To become part of a community and form meaningful relationships requires understanding, perhaps even immersion of a different kind. You need time and you need to take small steps. Surely you can’t feel empathy with anything or anyone in seven minutes?
Can role-play in virtual reality support language acquisition?
We are currently working with CMU’s ETC – Entertainment Technology Center to produce objects intended for use in language acquisition. Being able to practice language in a variety of settings and exploring ways to combine voice recognition and immersive spaces are at the heart of this inquiry.
We are working to develop a pedagogy for VR, looking at ways learning can be scaffolded to include the use of VR objects. This site serves to capture interactions and engagement within the Global Languages & Cultures Room that on reflection may be adapted for use within different curriculum areas.
If you would like to get involved with any of the projects in this page please get in touch via the contact form.