1,000 Cut Journey

Funded by The Brown Institute for Media Innovation

Achieving racial justice requires understanding racism. This project uses immersive virtual reality (IVR) to create a “virtual shoes” experience through which a participant can viscerally embody an avatar who encounters various forms of racism.

We are examining effects of this immersive virtual environment (IVE) on changes in acute physiological functioning (e.g. heart rate, heart rate variability, blood pressure) and psychological processes, including empathy/social perspective taking, racial bias and decision making. This project builds on previous studies, in which we have examined how virtual reality can induce in empathy for people different from oneself.

Funded by a Magic Grant from the Brown Instituten for Media Innovation, and in collaboration with Jeremy Bailenson and his team from Stanford University's Virtual Human Interaction Lab.


VR User

Developing Content

In October of 2016, our team of Social Workers from Columbia University and a team of Human Computer Interaction (HCI) specialists from Stanford met in California to imagine what role VR could potentially play in expanding individuals understanding of racism. The interdisciplinary nature of this project has been at the center of all of our work.

Our team spent months, researching, brainstorming, and learning from each other. Developing impactful and meaningful content for the VR experience has been of utmost importance. Our team ultimately drew from hundreds of sources, including previously created VR content, published research, twitter, blogs, podcasts, and our team’s personal experience with race.

A few sources we consulted include:

  • After Trayvon: Black Boys Speak: An inspiring and emotionally gripping public conversation in Brooklyn, amongst 9 Black and Latino boys ages 10-17. "After Trayvon" brings together these young boys to discuss Trayvon Martin, their own feelings of vulnerability and fear, education, leadership, violence in all forms, and history as they understand it.
  • Whiteness Project: An interactive investigation into how Americans who identify as white, or partially white, understand and experience their race
  • Life Cycles of Inequality: A Colorline Series on Black Men A monthly series exploring the ways in which injustice impacts every stage of black male life.
group photo

Bringing the Content to Life

Before we could create our final product we created multiple forms of storyboards, in order to envision how we wanted the final VR experience to progress.

Storyboards were created by Rosalie Yu, Creative Technologist at Columbia University. 

Story Boards