Reduced Reality – The influence of visual abstraction in VR on the acquisition and retention of climate change concepts

Jonas Christen, 2019





Virtual Reality (VR) is increasingly being used for educational experiences in schools, employee training and other learning environments. Often, the virtual worlds for these applications are created without input by designers. It is common to aim for photorealism, while design principles from other media suggest that coherence might be more important than realism. This project looks at the subject from a design perspective and investigates visual abstraction rather than visual realism. Climate change concepts are particularly hard to communicate due their large scale and timeframe. This project investigates the potential of VR to generate learning experiences that show these concepts on both an affective and a cognitive level and make users feel involved and empowered to take action. In a mixed methods approach, the design team from the Zurich University of the Arts evaluates a corpus of educational VR applications and generates an experience in three visual levels of abstraction (LOA), while the empirical team from the depart– ment of behavioural psychology at the University of Bern conducts the study and evaluates the influence of the LOAs on knowledge acquisition and retention and attitudes towards climate change. The hypothesis is that higher levels of abstraction will result in equal or better learning results. The outcome could lower the cost to create VR experiences and improve knowledge acquisition and retention in VR experience for schools, universities, behavioural research and training.

Two levels of abstraction for a pilot study in the course of the Program
Two levels of abstraction for a pilot study in the course of the Program