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The “Empathy” Project

 This research project explained the true story of the Kingsbay Plowshares 7, a group of anti-nuclear weapons activists that trespassed on to the U.S. Kings Bay Naval Submarine base in April 2018 as an act of protest. At the time, the 7 activists would haved up to 25 years of jail time. Given that the activisits are Catholic, they argued their forms of protest should be protected under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

This research project produced a journalistic story about the activists in three different formats: a 5-minute audio piece, a Virtual Reality piece, and a written piece. Participants were assigned one of the three mediums. After consuming their assigned medium, participants were asked to fill out a questionnaire about their thoughts on the protesters. VR has often been quoted as “the ultimate empathy machine” and our research team explored how the more immersive medium impacted our research participant’s perspective on the protester’s actions.

Completed as a final project for my Revolutions of the Mind 6710 graduate-level course at Cornell University, this project examined how various mediums impact audience perceptions on stories. Both quantitative and qualitative data were gathered from the study. The preliminary results demonstrate a possible link between VR influencing a person’s mind.

A recent Intercept article about the same 7 activists I interviewed for my research.

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