Beware Bullying, VR is Coming for You

Google VR

It’s nice to be a poster child for Google. That’s me facing the camera in the yellow t-shirt. It’s August 2017 in Nantucket at the magical Screenwriter’s Colony, home of the Nantucket Film Festival.

Three makers, myself, Aleem Houssain and Mary John Franks had the honor of being VR as artists-in-resident at the VR Action Lab; a consortium including Harmony Labs, Screenwriter’s Colony and Google.  Part of the program included a two week deep dive at the Colony to develop our anti-bullying projects produced by the most amazing Sensorium Works .    Bullying is as Aleem often said,  a seemingly “intractable” problem.  The question for us was can we create a virtual reality experience or story that might penetrate the teen age minds and adults who face the issue daily?

We won’t know if we succeeded for a while, as our pieces are part of anti-bullying curriculums, developed by Harmony and powered by Google Daydream, running in schools all over the world.

The possibilities are exciting, that perhaps VR might provide a more meaningful medium in providing lasting experiences that help students cope.  Of all the many hundreds of pages we read or the experts who explained the research and the dynamics, one thread of information stands out. While it is obvious the target of bullying suffers, often tremendously, it’s not so obvious the bully is also in great pain but most surprising, at least to me, was that studies show somewhere around 65% of students K-12 won’t be the actual target nor the bully, yet they often suffer sometimes as deeply.  Why?  The anxiety of witnessing others being abused, coupled with the fear of becoming the next target, has a measurable negative impact.  In other words, bullying causes pain and it’s widespread. I am proud to have worked on a project aimed at solutions.


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