Student working on coursework

Using Virtual Reality to Co-Design for Peace

Monday, November 21, 2022

About the Class

Immersive Media: Co-Design for Peace in Boston is a semester long class taught by Professor David Kelleher. Emerson students collaborate with survivors of homicide victims from the Louis D. Brown Peace Institute (LDBPI) to create virtual reality experiences that support healing and  honor the healing journeys of the survivors. The class is currently creating a virtual sandtray experience, modeled after a core healing practice used at LDBPI, called Peace Play in Urban Settings. Peace Play in Urban Settings invites participants to take miniatures and place them in a sandtray to represent their inner world, in order to discuss their thoughts and feelings in a constructive and healing manner. Our team’s goal is to provide a virtual healing tool for survivors of trauma by learning and applying new programs and skills for virtual reality (VR) game development, sound design, 360º video, 3D modeling, and narrative development.  

A Student’s Perspective

By Peter Travis

It is an honor to be part of this class. I have found a supportive, kind, determined, and courageous group among my classmates and our collaborators. It is not often that there is a course that both teaches real life workplace skills and makes a tangible social impact in our local community. 

I grew up in an affluent, predominantly white environment. In my town’s “bubble,” I wasn’t fully taught about the systemic discrimination against marginalized communities until my senior year of high school, and that was only after the murder of George Floyd in 2020. Since then, I’ve been able to work with communities outside of this bubble; I’m able to directly work with communities on creating solutions to current issues, instead of staying on the sidelines.

I was (and still am) deeply invested in video games, and I’ve always had the dream of one day developing my own. Being part of this class finally gives me the chance to help in the development process of a game, while also promoting a good cause. Although it is sometimes difficult to keep up with the development cycle, I have never felt more energized and engaged in a project before this point. I’ve been learning coding and sound design for games much more actively than I have been in the past, and it has been a blessing to be working with a brilliant team that has a true collaborative spirit. 

It has been a joy to work with my fellow classmates and our collaborators, especially during our meetings where we are hands-on with the development process. Our team members have been working diligently on the VR experience, with every person playing a vital role in bringing our collective vision into reality. From coding and modeling to writing and filming, this is a media experience that is truly comprehensive. We have worked diligently and tirelessly to create this experience and have our community put on the headset for the first time.

In taking this course, I have found a local cause that I can help in a meaningful way. I’m glad that I’m able to break out of my bubble and work with our community members to transform narratives of gun violence in our communities, honor the memories of those we’ve lost, and to work toward a future in which no person has to suffer the pain of losing a family member. Most of all, I’m glad that I’ve found such a supportive and collaborative group of people that I would have never met if not for this course.


Peter Travis,

VM495 Studio Assistant