Can VR help us understand layers of oppression?

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  • Often thought of first as gaming tech, virtual reality has been increasingly used in research as a tool for mimicking real-life scenarios and experiences in a safe and controlled environment.
  • Focusing on issues of oppression and the ripple affect it has throughout America’s political, educational, and social systems, Dr. Courtney D. Cogburn of Columbia University School of Social Work and her team developed a VR experience that gives users the opportunity to “walk a mile” in the shoes of a black man as he faces racism at three stages in his life: as a child, during adolescence, and as an adult.
  • Cogburn says that the goal is to show how these “interwoven oppressions” continue to shape the world beyond our individual experiences. “I think the most important and powerful human superpower is critical consciousness,” she says. “And that is the ability to think, be aware and think critically about the world and people around you…it’s not so much about the interpersonal ‘Do I feel bad, do I like you?’—it’s more ‘Do I see the world as it is? Am I thinking critically about it and engaging it?'”

This video is part of Z 17 Collective‘s Future of Learning series, which asks education thought leaders what learning can and should look like in the midst and wake of the coronavirus pandemic.

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