Linda Durnell (far left), Jerri Lynn Hogg (center) and Tunisha Singleton (second from right) on the Psychology of Immersive Design Panel at Digital Hollywood

Media Psychology faculty members and students gathered at the Digital Hollywood conference in Los Angeles last week for a deep dive into virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality technologies.

Program Director Jerri Lynn Hogg sat on the “Psychology of Immersive Design” panel with adjunct faculty Linda Durnell and Tunisha Singleton.

“As experts in virtual experiences we are hitting the ground running with ideas, learning and understanding how to implement new technologies from a psychological perspective,” Jerri Lynn said.” Underlying this all is story – it’s the driver of human behavior. No matter the technology, story is the reason we do things.”

Tunisha brought an interesting perspective about immersive storytelling in sports and entertainment.

“She suggested that entertainment technology should complement the game as additive content, not replace the game with potentially isolating experiences,” said PhD student Aiden Hirshfield, who was in the audience. “One of my favorite topics touched on during the panel was the intersection between entertainment and environmental change. For instance, can storyline — and fear — elicit behavior change and sustainable thinking?”

Media Psychology cluster students and faculty gathered at Digital Hollywood in Los Angeles last week: (L-R) Mary Couvillion, Dave Caplan, Mona Bahgat, Alton Carswell, Shersy Benson, Dan Sewell, Linda Durnell, Jerri Lynn Hogg, and Aiden Hirshfield

Linda Durnell believes it can.

“Using virtual reality in the same light as any documentary or news report can allow people to feel the full measure of emotions inherent in disasters and may shape people’s perspective,” she said. “For example, according to UNICEF, currently 1 in 9 children around the world live in conflict or disaster zones, and to understand these conditions by being physically present can mean risk to personal safety. However, using VR as a crisis response tool has the potential to transform the way people respond to crisis and how they make decisions affecting the victims of crisis.”

PhD student Dave Caplan said the panel brought home the importance of understanding what the deeper immersive experiences of VR and AR really mean. “It helped me see the tremendous potential they have for educational and social advancement,” he said “—but only if we study the psychological implications.”