Shifting Perspectives on Virtual Reality

My name is Meeti, and I am a student worker at the Askwith Kenner Global Languages and Cultures Room. I am a second-year student in the Public Policy and Management MS program, and I am interested in improving public wellness. My first experience with virtual reality (VR) was at the Global Languages and Cultures Room. Before I tried VR, I assumed that it wouldn’t differ much from video and, as a new invention, it would have limited societal influence; I couldn’t have been further from the truth.

During my introduction I tested both games and videos, and I was quickly drawn to the documentaries. Because VR places viewers in the middle of the action, the documentaries are more enjoyable and the educational material is more impactful, than in video. Viewers are exposed to minute details without distraction, making VR a powerful tool for sharing information.

For example, I was always curious about the palm oil industry, but I didn’t quite understand the dilemma until I experienced The Curse of Palm Oil. Here, I was welcomed into the Orang Asli community of Malaysia. I stood with them on the edge of the forest and experience the habitat devastation. Not only was the message of the documentary more poignant, but I also gained a deeper appreciation of my international neighbors, their way of life, and their local environment.

The Curse of Palm Oil
Such documentaries inspired me to utilize this technology to spread awareness on physically distant issues, and I figured there was no better place to start than right here on campus. The Global Languages and Cultures Room is in a prime location between business and policy students, and its open accessibility of VR has the potential to enhance social change.

Two avenues of interest for me are environmentalism and mindfulness. I am planning on hosting an Earth Day event in April to share VR experiences that educate the viewer on environmental topics. I also hope to use VR mindfulness experiences to invite our community draw on the benefits of technology and well being.

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