The nature of public dissent has changed with rapidly advancing technology. People are organized on Facebook and mobilized with a hashtag. When every human being with an internet connection and a phone can become a journalist we are more capable than ever of experiencing revolutionary movements through the eyes of participants. What better tool than a 360 Vuze camera to document historic moments? The immersive nature of VR and the empathy such immersion elicits, is quietly starting to insert itself into activist spaces, giving us an opportunity to experience the passion and energy of these movements first hand.
Last week we saw a group of school kids mobilize a nation after their fellow students were murdered in yet another school shooting, this time in Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland Florida. According to the USA today, the March For Our Lives protest was “the largest single day protest in the history of the nation’s capital.” An historic event, and one we are able to experience personally with 360 footage.
Ian Garret was able to attend one such protest. Ian reflected on what motivated him to attend the March For Our Lives protest in Toronto.
“I grew up in Los Angeles. In 1997, the Bank of America shootout happened about a mile or two from my high school and we were on lock down. Then in 1999, Columbine was on my 17th birthday. So I can appreciate the fear of being at threat and my adult life has been framed by these school shootings. And, I keep thinking that with this going on and on that there are now adults whose entire lives are framed by this type of threat. It was weird. We, though locked down, didn’t actually get any closer to danger than hearing it in the distance. But, even then, at that distance, it’s a stressful way to exist. I don’t think anyone should have to feel under threat like that anywhere.”
When asked why he brought his camera, Ian responded:
“I thought there must be people who didn’t know about the details, or couldn’t be there and wanted to, or were afraid. I don’t think you should necessarily be afraid to be downtown Toronto on a Saturday morning, but, still there is always the chance, since it is a threat to someone’s identity. I know there are any number of causes which I would have wanted to support, or seen people supporting, or which I have tried to convey that I’ve attended. It was one of the first thoughts that I had.
Like, I have this tool. And this tool is one which is being shown to provide a sense of presence and a sense of empathy. Wouldn’t it be cool to be able to share this with someone so that they can have a sense of solidarity and a sense of sanity for thinking something needs to change.”
Imagine being present during Martin Luther King’s speech. Or Ghandi’s Salt March. Or facing down tanks in Tiananmen square. It is well known that VR affords us an opportunity to experience empathy in a way that cannot be replicated in the real world. With 360 video we are now capable of experiencing history from the perspective of those who make it.
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