research, virtual reality
neurospeculative afrofeminism

Partner hyphen-labs
Purpose Master's Project
Role Reseacher
Methods Focus Groups, Interviews
Platform Oculus
Duration Spring 2018 - Present

An Exploration of Diverse VR Narratives, Cognition, and Self Efficacy

Created by the ladies of hyphen-labs, NSAF is a transformative virtual reality experience that incorporates women of color into the tech narrative by giving them an entry point into the field at the intersection of afro-futurism, neuroscience, & speculative design. As the experience begins, the user is taken to a speculative world where they explore a futuristic reimagination of a hair. The space is a Neuro Cosmetology lab where you think you’re getting your hair done but in reality these scientists are working on your neurons and preparing you for a transformative experience. The scientists, Naema & Brooks, have reimagined an existing technology called transcranial stimulation and implemented it into hair rituals.

Background

What is Afrofuturism and Afrofeminism?

The terms Afrofuturism and Afrofeminism define recent movements that seek to explore possible futures through the lens of black culture as a means to confront and analyze present-day issues faced by the community. The product of these movements include the creation of VR narratives (such as NSAF) and content across literature, visual arts, and music. Examples of black cultural icons that have contributed to these movements are authors such as Nnedi Okorafor and Octavia Butler, and singers Erykah Badu and Janelle Monae.

What is Self-Efficacy?

Existing research conducted by Psychologist Albert Bandura in 1994 defines perceived self efficacy as one's beliefs about their capabilities to produce designated levels of performance that exercise influence over events that affect their lives.

Research Overview

For my research, I am conducting a longitudinal study to understand the cognitive effects that this experience has on black girls in K-12. The basis of my research questions follow Bandura's Social Cognitive Theory which states that one of the main sources of motivation and performance comes through an individual’s perceived self-efficacy.

Research Questions
  1. What impact does exposure to culturally responsive VR experiences have on levels of self-efficacy and feelings of imposter syndrome for black girls in computing?
  2. What impact do participation in storytelling and creating personal narratives have on black girls in computing?

Process

Exploring The Space

Focus Groups

In order to understand the fundamental views of the target group, I conducted focus groups with two groups of girls in Metro Atlanta schools. These conversations helped me form my research questions and narrow down critical themes to focus on throughout the study.

Topics

Perceptions of technology, computing, school, learning, classes, and self

Key Finding
Exposure x Interest in Computing
This was a key theme connected to the way the girls perceived themselves and the tech field. Exposure was deeply connected with their level of excitement and interest in pursuing tech related activities and studies.

Understanding The Space

Self Efficacy x Exposure to Diverse VR
Using existing research, I developed a tech-based questionnaire to assess the levels of efficacy throughout the study. Participants are assessed at various points of the study (while being exposed to the NSAF experience) to measure the changes in their assessments of their efficacy. I hope to understand the effects that exposure to VR experiences that include people of color at the narrative have on how these girls view their own abilities in Computing.

Initial Findings

So far the data has shown a short-term relationship between exposure to NSAF and increased self-efficacy. The particpants rated themselves significantly higher after being exposed to the narrative. However, in the long-term, social/environmental influences such as classes at school and lack of practice led to a decrease in efficacy from the inital scores of the participants. Below are a few of the effects that were captured.

Ongoing Work

This is an ongoing study that will be completed in 2019. Further data is still being collected across Atlanta and will be reported accordingly.