If you walked through the newly opened Rankin Family Pavilion on March 10th and 11th, you likely noticed Virtual Reality stations that were set up in the atrium. What you may not have realized is that these stations were part of an ongoing research project led by Brock professors Dr. Jessica Blythe, Dr. Gary Pickering and Dr. Julia Baird. Their research is enabled by a Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) Insight Development Grant they received in 2019 worth $74,970.
With colleagues from around the world, Drs. Blythe, Pickering and Baird are exploring whether virtual reality can shape knowledge of and attitudes towards the high seas (which refers to the open ocean beyond national boundaries). The idea, Dr. Blythe mentioned, is to see whether being immersed in a future scenario, that shows what the ocean might look like in the year 2050, changes how people feel about the issues that are currently affecting the high seas, including overfishing, pollution and inequitable access to marine resources (including genetic material and oil). Ultimately, they aim to understand if virtual reality can boost public support for oceans that are normally “out of sight and out of mind”, which might encourage better protection of what has been called Earth’s final frontier.
As virtual reality becomes increasingly popular for a wide variety of purposes, the ESRC is honoured to have home unit faculty members Drs. Blythe, Baird, along with ESRC Faculty Affiliate, Dr. Gary Pickering, leading this cutting edge research!