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Going Beyond Walking in Another Shoes: Virtual Reality and Other-Body Experience

We often talk about #empathy, learning about #others and #intercultural #understanding as "walking in another shoes" (ableist imagery noted). Yet, how can new forms of #immersive technologies, such as #virtual reality, offer new, augmented formats to experience another person's body and potentially, their lived reality?

Such exploration is being conducted by non-profit and Barcelona-based, but globally active organization, led by a multinational transdisciplinary set of researchers, BeAnotherLab. The group uses cognitive science, virtual reality and the idea of performances to test the limits of identity, embodied knowledge, empathy, cross-cultural understanding of the #Other. They have conducted their performances/experiments around the world, and in unlikely venues, from international film festivals to UN #refugee camps.

Their #VR system, "Machine to be Another" allows performers/users to experience the illusion of being in another body, of perceiving another body as their own of responding to the movements and voice of another. As their project shown in the video below, Embodied Narratives illustrates, this immersive, experiential form of #learning and being has the potential to transform our understanding of identity of self and other, to traverse constructed boundaries of division, whether by culture, race, nationality, language, gender, ability, age and so forth.

Through the immersive technology of virtual reality, users consider new forms of connection and engagement that allow for the generation of understanding and knowledge that goes beyond adages such as "walking in another shoes." Indeed, the pedagogic and learning and development value of such immersive experiences is immense: beyond the limitations of admonitions of unlearn #bias, such experiential learning offers the opportunity to embody and interact as if in another body, offering the potential to develop new bridges of intercultural and other forms of understanding, including empathy and compassion.

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