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The social implications of immersive technology in SOCORRO’s science communication



Throughout my design practice, I have been fascinated with the behaviors of people on the Internet. My name is Martha Pryke, I graduated from Central Saint Martins design University based in London and my area of specialty is in Communication Design. I am part of the Team at Kent University that is responsible for the communication of SOCORRO.


I am deeply committed to using design, as part of communities of industries, as a tool for positive change to humanity. I have a strong focus on immersive experiences such as Visual Reality and Augmented reality as a form of authentic storytelling and method of education. I believe immersive technology to be part of the solution to global Wicked Problems such as climate change. The reality is our world is blending between the digital and physical. I see this shift in the landscape of humanity as an opportunity to make positive changes to issues such as inherent bias.


In past projects, I have observed online sexual habits and placed those behaviors in new contexts, with a view to provoking conversations about how our movement from physical to digital is affecting sexual culture. I have developed my design practice, moving past the re-contextualization of human behavior, into more direct action. I have also produced projects such as ‘Place a Protest’ in which the aim was to give assess to everyone with a smartphone and the internet a method to protest. I created an easy-to-navigate platform for anyone to ‘Place a Protest’ meaning placing a piece of Augmented Reality (AR) anywhere in the world using location-based web AR. This would enable anyone who couldn’t physically attend a protest to be able to place a digital object in the physical world. For example, a single parent or a human with server anxiety, who wanted to protest could place a piece of AR at the protest site. This could then be seen by anyone in the public.



The importance of developing technologies in the areas of both blended and immersive realities in science communication is vital to note. During the communication of the SOCORRO project, we are examining the associations between authentic audience engagement and education through the use of immersive technologies such as Virtual Reality. In part, we are investigating how the activities performed by the user, influence their understanding of corrosion created through steel exposure to water. The use of Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality are two of the latest modifications to the human experience enabling people to gain knowledge, empathy, and understanding through clear engaging immersive experiences.


Through design, in a broader view, I firmly believe we currently have a window of opportunity to use the shift from physical to digital methods of communication and the human experience to weave in conversations about equality, human rights, and the environment in the context of an increasingly digital world.


We are at a unique moment in time where we can look at information from the past and see inequalities in a factual forthright approach, owing to mass quantitative data collection. It is essential that we ask what we can do with these new insights, how can we maneuver spaces/tools/objects/systems that are kinder and fairer, both for humanity and the environment. These changes need to be conscious and considered, with input from all disciplines and industries in the conversation, not just the technology industry and the engineers building it.


This applies to science communication. There are lots of reasons SOCORRO is an important project, from vast financial implications to the environmental impact of corrosion. However, for me, SOCORRO has presented the opportunity to also explore engaging methods of science communication using these developments in technologies such as Virtual Reality to successfully bring Authenticity to the experience.


One of the incredibly exciting opportunities communication design gives space to explore are these technologies. For me, I see good design as a social responsibility. My interests as a designer, and as part of the science communication team for SOCORRO are firmly embedded in the cultural implications surrounding blended realities and Smart Environments. The online 3D network or ‘metaverse’ that humans have begun to occupy presents some interesting archetypes for culture, human group formation, and equality.


The reality is, whether we pay attention to it or not, whether we want to be a part of it or not. The world is becoming increasingly digital. My goal as a designer is, how can we use this inevitable current shift to highlight current human bias and to use this insight to make positive change in humanity.

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