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We know that plastic pollutes our oceans on a large scale. Still, plastic is part of our daily lives. How can we reduce our plastic consumption and contribute to cleaner oceans? This question is at the heart of a new project that will use Virtual Reality to increase awareness and change behaviour regarding plastic use and ocean pollution. The project is led by Hande Sungur of the University of Amsterdam and funded by NWO’s KIEM programme.

plastic bag in sea

Seeing beauty and pollution

In the immersive and interactive Virtual Reality experience, users will experience diving into the ocean, see the beauty of it but also the pollution. They can learn about different types of plastics and what they can actually do themselves in their daily lives to reduce this pollution.

Reducing psychological distance

Although we know about the plastic pollution of oceans, it might feel as a distant problem on which you have little effect. “We believe that VR is a technology that can increase empathy by reducing the psychological distance to the problem. We think that learning about plastic pollution in an immersive environment can be very effective”, tells Sungur.

Project funding and partners

The project is funded in the NWO ‘The Creative Industry – KIEM’ programme. This programme finances short-term fundamental and industrial research and collaborations between private, public and knowledge institutions. Sungur will be working with:

  • The VR company WeMakeVR, which will help develop the VR experience.
  • The Amsterdam Sustainability Institute that will provide the expertise on sustainability related information.
  • VU’s Broader Mind initiative, which is a education group at the VU that will integrate the experience in their sustainability related courses.
  • Researchers Tilo Hartmann and Guido van Koningsbruggen from VU University (Communication Science) and Zeph van Berlo from the University of Amsterdam (Communication Science).

The project will run from January 2020 to January 2021.

Dr H. (Hande) Sungur

Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences

CW : Youth & Media Entertainment