Affinity Workshop: Queer in AI Workshop 1

Mementorium: Learning about LGBTQ+ marginalization in STEM fields using virtual reality

Dylan Paré


We present Mementorium, an interactive, branching narrative told in immersive, virtual reality (VR). The player uncovers the narrator’s memories of gender and sexuality-based marginalizations in STEM learning environments, moving from childhood to early adulthood. Mementorium’s design builds upon our previous designs and research on queer reorientations to computing and queer approaches to embodied learning in VR. When LGBTQ+ people’s exclusion is even acknowledged, approaches to addressing the problem often treat LGBTQ+ people as the problem: “We become a problem when we describe a problem” (Ahmed, 2017, p. 39). Framing LGBTQ+ people as the cause of their exclusion leads to solutions to entice and retain LGBTQ+ people in STEM. However, this fails to address issues that keep LGBTQ+ people from STEM fields. Mementorium aims to increase understanding of interpersonal and systemic factors contributing to LGBTQ+ exclusion from STEM learning and professions and encourage more expansive thinking and action in solidarity with LGBTQ+ people. Mementorium tells the story of a queer, nonbinary person interested in learning about technology but faces barriers to participation due to normative and oppressive ideas about gender and sexuality. Each of the memories that the player uncovers has three branching points in the narrative. First, the player uncovers the memory, revealing the harm caused by marginalization. Next, the player chooses their reaction to the situation that reorient players to the narrator’s experiences. Finally, the player chooses a future-oriented response to direct the narrator’s actions, offering choices for individual or group-oriented action or action on a larger scale of social change. We are researching Mementorium to see how players make sense of LGBTQ+ marginalizations as individual and systemic issues and how to reorient players toward counter-hegemonic actions that support marginalized people.

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