VR Middle Passage Experience

UCF professors create a VR beta of the Middle Passage Experience (VR MPE) to research tools for teaching history and researching empathy learning. The VR MPE is a series on the transatlantic slave trafficking during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. The research goal is to measure empathy learning through virtual immersion and to serve as an educational experience for students learning about the Middle Passage and the history surrounding it. Below is our documentary film about our project. We developed the film for our virtual exhibition at the virtual conference of the Electronic Literature Organization, July 2020.

Creators, Directors, and Consultants:

  • Dr. Yovanna Pineda, Associate Professor, Department of History
  • Dr. Fon Gordon, Coordinator of Africana Studies and Associate Professor in History
  • Dr. Emily Johnson, Assistant Professor, Games and Interactive Media
  • Dr. Amy Giroux, Associate Director, Center for Humanities and Digital Research
  • Dr. Ezekiel Walker, Associate Professor, Department of History
  • Dr. Marie Leticee, Associate Professor, Department of Modern Languages and Literatures
  • Dr. Rosalind Beiler, Associate Professor, Department of History

Documentary Film about the Project, VR MPE

In this interactive VR, participants embody a newly captured African. They are first presented to Elmina castle in Elmina, Ghana. In this VR, they line up with other captives as they enter the ships. Participants may interact with others while in line, though the majority of the interactive experiences take place on the ship. The clip below is from VR MPE.

Video clip from the beta version of the VR MPE, “Walking the Line” in the fort before being boarded and taken across the Atlantic Ocean.

Once on board, as a matter of survival, participants must make choices. They may do a variety of things, including winning favor by cleaning the deck, make a friend, steal food, and so on. The ship stories are based on research obtained from visual and archival materials, the database slavevoyages.org, and the numerous primary accounts from African captives, creoles, elite, ship captains, and ship logs.

Video clip from the beta version of the VR MPE, below deck in the “The Human Cargo Quarters” after being boarded below the ship’s deck.

Though this experience de-emphasizes the more graphic violence and human atrocities that were all too often a reality for the captives, the simulation remains compelling. The feeling of being trapped without hope of escape and the conditions below the deck of the ship quite effectively convey to the participant feelings of dehumanization.

ILRN Poster Showcase, June 2020

Work-in-Progress Paper: “Context is Key in Immersive Learning Environments” by Emily K Johnson, Amy L. Giroux, and Yovanna Pineda, University of Central Florida


To learn more about the team, please see: https://chdr.cah.ucf.edu/mpe/index.html

Media Coverage of VR MPE

“Multimedia ‘Un(Continuity)’ Virtual Art Exhibition” by Matthew Moyer, Orlando Weekly, July 17, 2020. URL: https://www.orlandoweekly.com/Blogs/archives/2020/07/17/multimedia-un-continuity-virtual-art-exhibition-opens-through-ucf-this-week

Ashley María Bermudez, “Virtual Reality Project Visualizes the Lives of African Captives,” NSM Today, February 18, 2020. URL: http://www.nicholsonstudentmedia.com/life/virtual-reality-project-visualizes-the-lives-of-african-captives/article_d4e6154e-510d-11ea-8c5c-83fb15eec06b.html

Tanner Pierce, “AVID Innovation Discovery Event Lets UCF Faculty Experience Augmented Virtual Reality, NSM Today, March 5, 2020. URL:  http://www.nicholsonstudentmedia.com/news/avid-innovation-discovery-event-lets-ucf-faculty-experience-augmented-virtual-reality/article_cbf5494c-5a80-11ea-ae97-2b529c6a57cb.html

Zafirios Daglaris, “Digital history project featured at UCF Celebrates the Arts,”  April 24, 2019, featured in https://news.cah.ucf.edu/news/history-projects-at-ucf-arts/

Demonstrations & Exhibits, Feb. 2020