Virtual Reality and the Future of Politics

Digital evolutions have played large parts in politics for as long as both politics and digital marketing strategies have co-existed, with Donald Trump and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez being two mainstream examples in recent history who had exceptional engagement on social media, ultimately being large reasons for their respective successes when election time rolled around. JFK had similar success in being ahead of the curve with television advertising in the sixties.

With augmented reality and virtual reality bringing a new wave of technology being utilized in various industries such as construction, healthcare, and education, political strategists are following suit and brainstorming (and implementing) ideas regarding virtual reality in regards to their strategies moving forward.

Here are some ways the VR industry has already been utilized in politics, as well as some speculation for future use.

Diplomacy

Although the domestic left vs. right issues are rarely discussed with any sort of diplomacy, it does still exist when foreign relations are being discussed. During the Obama Administration, Barack and Michelle used 360 degree camera technology on their end to give virtual tours of the White House to foreign nationals utilizing VR headsets on their end.

Similar uses are not uncommon across the global political scale, and as is the case with almost all implementations of virtual reality, feeling like you are “there,” wherever there may be, makes any conversation a bit more intimate and relaxed.

Emotional Immersion

It’s no secret that U.S. political advertisements often to exist to make consumers of the advertising (a.k.a. voters) feel something deeply to help create, solidify, or change feelings towards a given political issue. A VR documentary called Clouds Over Sidra, that was created to depict the lives of Syrian refugees from a first-person viewpoint, wound up raising $3.2 billion in funds to help end the suffering of the refugees.

When it comes to political gain, similar documentaries can (and have, in small quantities) be created to help raise awareness about issues such as animal rights, treatment of detained migrants, and even the inner workings of certain political circles. Certainly, these already exist in two-dimensional movies and TV shows, but VR triggers emotions beyond those that people experiencing simply by observing something (2D), as the VR really makes you feel like you’re “there,” whether that means the Oval Office, or a refugee camp in Syria, or even the shoes of a black man in America, and any technology that can pull more emotion will certainly be a technology that politicians aim to use.

Campaigns

Though the $3.2 billion raised for the Syrian refugees is a huge number used for great things, it’s merely twice of what presidential candidates raised and spent on the campaign train in 2016, alone. Campaigns have big money, and though VR costs are still considered high, that’s more relative to the cost of a regular TV for an every day consumer. With almost endless streams of cash, political campaigns are now buying in to the VR technologies to produce content for their own political gain.

Consumption

During the 2016 election cycle, VR social network AltspaceVR crated a 360-degree view of the NBC-hosted live presidential debates. For consumers of political news and campaign messages, this may be a more appealing implementation of VR in the campaign trail, as it will allow a front-row seat to what are expected to be emotionally heavy debates in 2020.

Given the fact that the U.S. still faces many restrictions on gatherings due to the coronavirus, it is expected that any type of technology that brings the masses “closer” to the political action will be highly utilized in the next month, with VR being front and center.

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