Do Black Lives Matter in the Empathy Machine? Investigating Whiteness and Immersion on Creating a Shared Reality with 360-Degree Video

International Communication Association (ICA) Conference, May 26-30, 2022, Paris, France

Abstract: The summer of 2020 brought increased participation and support for the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement following accounts of police use of lethal force toward Black citizens. As protests spread, many white people seemed to realize their lived experiences were different from those of Black Americans. Unfortunately, whiteness, or societal structures rooted in the legacies of colonialism and white domination, may have failed to make this realization last longer than a viral trend on social media. This study decenters whiteness to examine how a shared reality with a Black or white speaker delivering an antiracist message can be supported or hindered using immersive 360-degree video platforms. Results show that greater immersion can cause adverse reactions toward a white speaker but not a Black speaker. Additionally, higher immersion strengthened positive perceptions of the Black speaker resulting in a stronger sense of shared reality which led to greater willingness to support organizations like BLM and advocate for policy reform.

Sun Joo (Grace) Ahn 

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