Climate Change Communication in 3D Environments

Abstract
People perceive climate change to be a distant phenomenon that is not relevant to them, this is referred to as psychological distance, the perception of how distant or proximal something is from an individual on four dimensions: spatial, temporal, social, and experiential. An individual’s distance to an issue or event influences whether it is mentally represented and evaluated as abstract or concrete, in turn affecting behavioral responses and action. In order to decrease distance, we must make abstract concepts immediate and observable. Current climate change communication is disseminated mainly through traditional media channels, which are limited in their ability to successfully decrease distance to climate change and engage people in meaningful action. This research proposes that virtual reality is a promising channel for decreasing psychological distance due to the ability to transport users through time and space, and provide tools to exert their agency. This study investigates how the design of interactions within 3D environments can decrease an individual’s psychological distance to climate change on each of the four dimensions. By working with graphic design students to design 3D interactive environments, the researcher developed a prototype for a system of tools intended for use within a virtual reality experience. 
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