Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Peacebuilding Through The Arts Students at Utah Valley University Step Into Virtual Reality

"The only way to truly grasp how transformative VR can be is to experience it," wrote Michael Abrash, Chief Scientist for Occulus VR, in his 2016 article, "Welcome to the Virtual Age." A group of college students and their professors at Utah Valley University were given the chance to step into this transformative terrain on April 12, many for the first time.

Denise Windley presented her plans to create a virtual experience featuring Haitian music, culture, and life to bridge the gap of understanding and spur an interest in the island nation.  In order to demonstrate virtual reality's potential for change-making, she was joined by Utah VR experts,  Chris Madsen and Bryan Burr, who arrived with the gear and tools to lead them into the virtual domain.

Within the physical space of a classroom, the two guided senior level students enrolled in the Spring Semester Peacebuilding Through the Arts (PJST 475R) class, along with the class's co-instructors Dr. Michael Minch (Peace and Justice Studies) and Assistant Professor Monica Campbell (Dance), through several virtual reality programs.  Among the experiences were vrse’s “Clouds Over Sidra,” “Waves of Grace,” nytvr’s “The Displaced,” “Inside Impact: East Africa,” and “Song for Someone” featuring U2 and musicians from around the world, created by Chris Milk.

Brigham Young University filmmaker Mathew Armstrong caught the transformative experience on camera.  Armstrong is working on a documentary about VR in Utah.

Chris Madsen (far left) guides UVU students through virtual reality experience.

Photographs by Denise Windley

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Edge of Discovery’s complete interview with VR consultant Chris Madsen: an inside look at the latest consumer Virtual Reality, Oculus Rift (December 1, 2014)

Ou Chante Pwoblem-lan

Ou chante pwoblem-lan. (You sing the problem.)

"Haitian quake survivors sang to reconstitute themselves as individuals, and to reconstitute the groups--families, neighbors, congregations, and communities to which they belong." -- Elizabeth McAlister, Professor of Religion, "Soundscapes of Disaster and Humanitarianism: Survival Singing,  Relief Telethons, and the Haiti Earthquake"

Rara in the Diaspora

Evening Rara procession at Prospect Park, Brooklyn, New York.  Photo courtesy of Maestro Joujou

Collaborating On Levels "Never Before Possible" with Virtual Reality

"We can collaborate in ways never before possible in the history of human existence.  This level of collaboration has only been possible through the evolution of technology and the internet." -- Chris Madsen, DeepRifter, VR Consultant and Enthusiast

Friday, July 31, 2015

Songs of Solidarity

Women's solidarity group who receive microcredit loans to fund small businesses through the organization, Fonkoze, are photographed outside a meeting house near Miribilis, Haiti, with a group of students and professors from Utah Valley University Peace and Justice Studies' study abroad program.  The photograph was taken in May, 2012. "These beautiful ladies welcomed us with songs in Kreyol which spoke of their gratitude for having been given an opportunity to sustain themselves through the funding," recalls  Denise Windley, Virtual Vaksen founder.

Songs of Reproach

Chante pwen-s ("sending points"): Skillfully phrased, their message is tucked just below the surface.  This provides an avenue of discourse, where the oppressed can speak out against power
in a safer position in the face of retribution.