Do Black Lives Matter in the Empathy Machine? Creating a Shared Reality to Disrupt Whiteness with Immersive 360-Degree Videos

Haley R. Hatfield (PhD student) and Sun Joo (Grace) Ahn, “Do Black Lives Matter in the Empathy Machine? Creating a Shared Reality to Disrupt Whiteness with Immersive 360-Degree Videos”

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 individuals. As protests spread, many white people realized their lived experiences were different from Black people. Unfortunately for some, this realization did not last longer than a viral trend on social media. Whiteness, the societal formations embedded from past colonialism and white domination, may control much of the narrative surrounding prosocial movements like BLM and restrain some individuals from sharing an antiracist worldview. This study tests two competing theoretical frameworks and examines how a shared reality with a Black or white speaker delivering an antiracist message can be supported or hindered with immersive 360-degree video platforms. Pilot data with student samples showed that greater immersion causes adverse reactions toward a white speaker but not a Black speaker. This study seeks to build from pilot investigations to 1) understand the relationship between immersive 360 videos and prosocial attitudes and behaviors, 2) explore the underlying affective processes with psychophysiological measurements, and 3) recruit a representative non-student sample to understand how creating a shared reality can disrupt Whiteness and promote prosocial behaviors. The expected results will inform journalism and mass communication research about Whiteness and immersion’s role in creating a shared reality relating to antiracist worldviews.

Confronting whiteness through virtual humans: A review of 20 years of research in prejudice and racial bias using virtual environments

Haley Hatfield (PhD student), Sun Joo (Grace) Ahn, Matthew Klein (PhD student) & Kristine Nowak (in press). “Confronting whiteness through virtual humans: A review of 20 years of research in prejudice and racial bias using virtual environments.” Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication.

Abstract: Virtual environments provide novel and powerful ways users can experience people and places where researchers can examine and reduce racial bias. However, these experiences may unintentionally prime or entrench racist beliefs when creating simulations without considering the systemic structures of racial inequities in academia. A critical Whiteness framework guides this systematic review of 20 years of prejudice and bias reduction research in virtual environments. Of the 68 articles, findings indicated that virtual experiences are a promising tool in anti-bias interventions. However, future research must expand to more longitudinal, behaviorally focused studies while prioritizing predictive theoretical models and meaningfully reflecting on inclusive practices within the broader bias reduction space. We discuss best practices for future research in anti-bias and anti-prejudice in virtual environments.