Gender representation and virtual reality mesh for teaching and research

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Interactive media student Nathaniel Hobbs plays “Star Trek Bridge Crew” as part of Dr. Stephanie Dean’s gender representation experiment.

Dr. Stephanie Dean, assistant professor in the Department of Media Arts, conducted an innovative experiment in gender and virtual reality in December in the Bragg Media and Entertainment Building. Dean was joined by Interactive Media students for an immersive experience in gender and media representations by playing the virtual reality game “Star Trek Bridge Crew.”

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Dr. Stephanie Dean

The experiment, which is an eight-hour project using VR, looks at how men and women are perceived in positions of authority by using the popular sci-fi show’s role-playing command game.

“Our first interaction was quite interesting,” Dean said. “We had a female voice playing a male character and that character, every time she suggested a maneuver, it was like, eh, we could do that, maybe. And then when the guy came into the same character, he didn’t have that same response. And it wasn’t a rude response, but I think there was an unconscious bias.”

Dean’s research uses new technology, such as virtual reality, as a tool to demonstrate the gender bias often present in the media. Back in October, she presented “Virtually Gendered: How immersion and virtual embodiment caesn help mediate a gendered experience” in the Digital Media Studio in Walker Library. The demonstration placed participants in everyday gendered experiences and invited them to discuss the results afterward.

Her research explores the implications of virtual reality as a potential mediator of empathy and change.

“Embodiment in VR, essentially, is what we bring physically, we (also) bring digitally,” Dean said. “Virtual reality is a fictional form of another point of view.”

Dean’s colleague, Dr. Christine Eschenfelder, assistant professor in Journalism, worked with Journalism lecturer Dan Eschenfelder and broadcasting students to create the news package on Dean’s experiment. Check it out by clicking here.

gendering the holodeck

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Categories: Events, Faculty, News, Research, Students

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