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Using virtual reality to combat everyday racism

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Virtual reality offers the chance to experience everyday situations from other perspectives in an artificially generated reality. Various projects are taking advantage of this. They use virtual reality to raise awareness of racism and thus trigger rethinking and learning processes.

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Using virtual reality to combat everyday racism

Immerse yourself in new worlds and block out everything around you - virtual reality, or VR for short, makes it possible. This technology creates a computer-generated reality. Most of us are familiar with VR through the associated glasses, which have become increasingly popular in recent years.

The application fields of VR are diverse and go far beyond the world of online games. For example, VR is now used in architecture, medicine, art or education. VR is also used for social issues such as racism or the teaching of democratic values.

The great strength of this technology lies in the so-called immersion, which means the complete deep dive in a virtual world. This can enable a change of perspective that makes even everyday phenomena tangible. And many experts also agree: VR has great potential to promote understanding and empathy. The German Informatics Society has confirmed this in a recent study.

More empathy through a change of perspective 

In the following, we present two exemplary projects that make use of the empathy-promoting properties of VR in order to take systematic action against everyday racism.

VielRespektZentrum and the anti-racism glasses

With the project "VRZ360 - The Antiracism Glasses", the VielRespektZentrum in Essen - a cooperation partner of Deutsche Telekom fighting against hate on the Internet - offers to experience racist situations with the help of VR technology. Using VR glasses, everyday situations are simulated that are full of structural racism and racist statements. Participants step into the shoes of another person and experience how it feels to be discriminated and excluded. The goal: to recognize everyday racism at an early stage through emotional experience and to be able to intervene more quickly. 

The project AugenBLICK mal!

Another example is the "AugenBLICK mal!" project, which promotes diversity and anti-discrimination. In the workshop format, participants use VR technology to experience how it feels to take on the role of another person and experience racist situations in everyday life. Afterwards, the participants remain in the virtual space and discuss the scenes they have experienced with trained facilitators. This leads to a better understanding of discrimination, everyday racism and unconscious prejudices - and the participants' own thought patterns are also questioned. 

Using VR to inspire more civil courage

No human being is free of prejudices. They influence our perception, evaluation and actions. Especially in everyday life, this often happens unconsciously. In the process, they can cause a great deal of suffering for certain groups, because evaluations based on prejudice are often closely linked to discrimination and exclusion. The good news is that prejudice can be counteracted, for example by changing one's perspective. This is precisely where the great potential of VR lies. By personally empathizing with other people and other life situations, it helps to dissolve prejudices and fears. This creates empathy and sensitizes people to take action themselves and show more civil courage - in the analog world as well as online.

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