An Exploration of Virtual Reality As A Tool For Spiritual Progress
May 1, 2017 - May 30, 2018
Core Funding Area:
*A Grant DOI (digital object identifier) is a unique, open, global, persistent and machine-actionable identifier for a grant.
Director: Bryan FroehleInstitution: St. Thomas University
Can virtual reality help develop self-awareness of human purpose, including the development of moral character? This project was designed to demonstrate, then assess, the unique communicative experiences enabled by virtual reality (VR) technology By combining multimedia software and wearable technologies, VR expands the horizons of existing forms of communication, instruction, and entertainment. The key question for this research is whether VR can be used to illustrate and even enter into deep spiritual truths.
- subject exposure to VR experiences;
- on-site, online pretest, and post-test questionnaires;
- in-depth one-on-one post-test interviews;
- a follow-up questionnaire;
- distribution of 100 kits to opinion leaders in the moral formation field; and
- design and distribution of an electronic brochure as well as design and submission of scholarly journal articles sharing research findings.
Sociologist and theologian Bryan Froehle collected a wide range of data on research subjects collected anonymously through the online questionnaires. Topics included (a) demographics; (b) attitudinal and affiliation measures; (c) movies and VR experience; (d) and assessment of the potential and future of VR. He analyzed data using a combination of quantitative and qualitative data tools including SPSS (Statistical Package for the Social Sciences) and NVivo, qualitative data analysis software. The findings confirm that VR establishes a sense of presence and insertion that allows deep entry into narratives, increasing a sense of perspective and empathy. VR has the exciting potential to create transformative emotional experiences, engaging participants in spiritual and moral growth in compelling ways. VR also offers new possibilities for communication and learning, allowing participants to enter into realities that spatial distance and other realities render impossible to experience. It augments imagination, cultivates emotions, deepens self-awareness, and promotes a sense of transcendence beyond oneself. The overall conclusion affirms the potential of VR to offer new opportunities to engage and form the human spirit. At the same time, it merits caution and prudence since VR remains tied to emerging technological developments, including socially shareable functions. Nevertheless, as more people experience the transformative storytelling power of VR, the more recognition of its potential will increase.
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