Supporting Cultural Understanding of Indonesia Through Virtual Reality and Immersive Media
Abstract: This paper provides a summary of the use of a web-based virtual reality (VR) environment to support a group project abroad (GPA) program aimed at developing curriculum materials related to the culture, history, and arts of Indonesia. A recent Fulbright-Hays GPA to Indonesia resulted in a collection of digital artifacts from the country, including high-quality photographs, video clips, and 360-degree media related to cultural landmarks and daily life from the islands of Java, Bali, and Timor. These artifacts are freely made available to educators to use in their classrooms and in student projects. An immersive VR experience was designed to allow users to be more fully engaged in immersive media, such as 360-degree photoscapes and video from various vantage points at UNESCO World Heritage Sites such as Borobudur, the largest Buddhist temple complex in the world, as well as within traditional Indonesian houses and villages. Immersive media that can be accessed through the VR space includes photo galleries organized by themes, as well as digital culture kits related to cross-cultural themes such as traditional storytelling through puppetry, and the daily lives of young women in Indonesia. This project is important because the VR space provides an immersive, engaging, and multisensory experience for educators and students to interact with digital realia from diverse cultures of Indonesia.