Emotions and Virtual Reality

Oct 31, 2016 | Opinions

By Audrey Prieto

“Hello!” Says a little voice at 7 am, coming from the house in front of mine. It is my 5-years-old neighbor, Nicole.  Before getting into her father’s car, and being the chatty cathy she is, she starts explaining she is going to the bakery and then will be catching Pokemon all the way to school. “It is a little hard, but it is easy to me,” she says while laughing. Then she says “goodbye”, eager to start the trip.

I must confess, before beginning this writing, my position towards ICT – Information and Communication Technologies – has always been open and positive.  I think the benefits to society largely outweigh the disadvantages.

The controversy and publicity surrounding the famous Pokemon-Go game has caught the interest of many, the fury of others, and even the mischief of those up to no good. Personally, I have found it outstanding. I don’t play the game, but I have taken some time to understand how it works. Then, after my conversation with Nicole, I realized what a 5-years-old girl could develop through it. We know space and time concepts are abstract for preschoolers. This game allows a little kid to travel around the city, by car or walking, recognize its places (parks, bus stops, churches, streets, highways, schools…) and see a representation of his daily real world in a virtual space. (He father’s Android phone)

She can predict every day where she will find a prize in the game (a Pokemon). She knows when to go left or right because there are other “creatures” to catch on the way near the park. It is just to name some of the positive attributes of this famous game and popular app.

Beyond the advantages, there is a concern in certain people about how virtual reality affects human emotions. Virtual reality will never displace the real world.  People cannot develop emotional competences by themselves. They need social interaction, their own and other’s recognition in all its expression.

In my humble opinion, the Western cultures criticize virtual reality more than others. Cultures where physical contact and tactile sensations are highly appreciated. I, as a Venezuelan and educator, am interested in children and youth to hug, pet and shake hands with. They have to enjoy hanging out with friends and relatives.

How about Eastern cultures? There, physical contact is limited and sometimes banned.  I dare say, as a hypothesis without research and respecting those cultures, they do not rebuke virtual reality.

What do Westerners see as negative on Social Networks and virtual games, even when people interact with others through these media? Those people are missing physical contact with others.

However, I am one of those who thinks that virtuality is charged with feelings, well expressed, restricted, limited or repressed. The truth is, as Maria del Camen Moreno Velez, Colombian educator, once said: “Technology by its own assumes nothing…” “behind every bit, there is a human intention…behind every event, there is an individual or collective expressing interests, feelings, developments, proposals…”

I am optimistic about ICT. I am sure we (family, teachers, and society) can make a difference for the balance between comprehensive emotional development of children and youth and the emotional gratification of virtual reality. We just must call realities by their name and let our children and youth live healthy in both.

 

Audrey Prieto
Ph.D. in Educational Sciences
prietomorenoau@gmail.com