From the Other's Point of View:
VR/360 video as a tool for changing perspectives and raising awareness on global climate crisis
SUPPORTED BY THE UCL GRAND CHALLENGES SMALL GRANTS FOR DOCTORAL STUDENTS
From the Other's Point of View is an interdisciplinary project developing practical mechanisms for immersive technologies to change the ways human-environment relationships are perceived and understood. This is especially important in the context of contemporary environmental crises where the prevalence of exploitative human-environment relationships threatens global ecologies, leading to an increased urgency to both interrogate these exploitative relationships and to explore alternatives.
CREATING IMMERSIVE 360 ENVIRONMENTS
Drawing on the doctoral research and disciplinary expertise of PhD students from both UCL Anthropology and UCL Computer Science, this project explores the practical applications for immersive technologies such as VR/360 video, and their presentation in virtual immersive environments. Raffaella Fryer-Moreira (UCL Anthropology) draws on her doctoral research amongst indigenous communities in Brazil (and the 360 video footage she has collected there) to present indigenous perspectives on ecology and climate change. This informs and provides content for the virtual environment, enabling the viewer to experience the world from another cultural perspective. Dan Archer (UCL Computer Science) draws on his doctoral research to design the 360 video virtual environments, gathering feedback based on user experience and self-reported levels of immersion during the treatments. He hopes to use the technology developed in this prototype to tailor the level of immersion to best suit a participant’s unique demographic profile inside a 360 video format, something that he will adapt from his similar work in a room-scale VR context.
The project presents an immersive and interactive 360 environment which permits the viewer to explore the different cultural and ecological landscapes of Mato Grosso do Sul, Brazil. The region has been shaped by the conflicting interests of its diverse inhabitants: on one side, large-scale agricultural industries have transformed the land into vast plantations of soya and corn, producing substantial economic contributions to Brazil’s GDP (exact figures here); on the other side, Guarani & Kaiowá indigenous communities who have occupied this region for millennia remain determined to continue their way of life and find space for their communities to survive. These two groups occupy land in different ways, adopting distinct approaches to producing food and social life, and articulating specific relationships between human beings and ecological environments.
By offering an interactive immersion into these contested landscapes, audiences are invited to traverse distinct forms of occupying and transforming land, and consequently explore the particular concepts of human-environment relationships articulated by each approach. At stake is not only a different approach to land-use, but a different concept of human beings’ position within an ecological network, and a different understanding of what it means to be human. This interactive field is an experiment in immersive anthropology, and explores the communicative possibilities presented by new digital technologies in an effort to innovate the methods through which ethnographic research is practiced and communicated.
By developing a VR/360 video virtual environment which provides an immersive experience of an alternative cultural perspective on human-environment relations, we aim to question the ethnocentrism and anthropocentrism implicit in contemporary discourses on climate change. In doing so, we will contribute towards education and awareness-raising strategies in climate change mitigation efforts, and help develop the tools needed to rethink human-environment relationships in ways that are ecologically sustainable.