Students fight 'subtle racism’ with interactive video

Nikita Vladimirov
Investigative Reporter

  • The video, named "Mind Field," allows viewers to spend a day on a college campus, conversing with virtual friends in scripted sequences.
  • Graduate and undergraduate students at Carnegie Mellon University have designed an interactive video that targets “subtle racism” on campus.

    According to the university, the project seeks to demonstrate how everyday conversations between students, including questions such as "where are you from?" can potentially be viewed as offensive.

    "Asking 'where are you actually from' is insinuating a lot more."   

    The video program, titled “Mind Field,” allows the viewer to spend a day on a college campus, talking to virtual friends by selecting various dialogue options that appear in scripted scenarios.

    The video also includes various informational sections that identify and explain terms such as ideological and systemic racism, affirmative action and more.

    According to one section of the interactive program, statements such as “If they work hard, anyone can succeed in society,” exemplify a “myth of meritocracy” which is said to be a microaggression.

    [RELATED: 'Meritocracy' is a microaggression, university guidebook claims]

    Other examples of microaggressions include telling someone to “calm down” after asking why they are being loud, “ascription of intelligence,” and “color blindness.”

    "Mind Field will provide a unique opportunity to spark important dialogue with and among students about complex social dynamics and interpersonal relationships," CMU Assistant Dean of Student Affairs, Holly Hippensteel, told the university.

    Hippensteel was also pleased with the 25-page guidebook for Student Affairs staff that was prepared by the students who spearheaded the video project, and is planning to implement the digital program this summer, according to the university.

    Christopher Weidya, one of the student programmers who helped create “Mind Field,” told Carnegie Mellon that the project is designed to “promote empathy” from the users.

    "We hope that this experience can try and promote empathy from our players, and that they'll be more considerate and be more thoughtful of what's actually going on beneath the surface," Weidya told the university.

    [RELATED: UNC claims Christmas vacations, golf outing are microaggressions]

    Rony Kahana, a student who helped to write and produce the film, reiterated that persistently asking someone about their heritage can be viewed as an offensive comment.

    "Asking 'where are you actually from' is insinuating a lot more," Kahana said.

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    Nikita Vladimirov

    Nikita Vladimirov

    Investigative Reporter
    Nikita Vladimirov is an Investigative Reporter for Campus Reform. Prior to joining Campus Reform, he wrote for The Hill, where he extensively covered the latest political developments in U.S. and around the world. Vladimirov's work has appeared on the front pages of The Drudge Report and The Hill, and has been featured by several media organizations including Fox News, MSN, Real Clear Politics and others. He has also appeared as a political commentator on numerous programs, including BBC radio.
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