Virtual reality project gauges citizens' faith in law enforcement in the face of gang violence | 9/28/2018 | Staff
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To a resume rich in policy and security studies, work experience, and publications, Andrew Miller may now add the unlikely skill of video production. While investigating the impact of gang violence on Lagos, Nigeria, the sixth-year political science doctoral candidate came up with an innovative research tool: immersive, virtual reality (VR) videos.

"This was the first time VR was deployed in a large-scale field survey," says Miller, a Ph.D. candidate in the MIT Department of Political Science. "Using VR video vignettes, we could immerse respondents in hypothetical scenarios, which helped elicit their real-world emotions when answering questions about these scenarios."

Miller - Foray - Production - Part - Study

Miller's foray into production evolved as part of his multi-year doctoral study into the ways criminal organizations wield influence in communities.

"Deaths from criminal violence likely equal deaths from civil war, terrorism, and interstate war combined," he says, "and those responsible often operate with quasi-impunity." In the Americas, for instance, for every 100 murders, only about 25 people are convicted, Miller notes. "It's not just a problem for developing countries; even in some major American cities, people who commit murder are much more likely to get away with it than be arrested or convicted."

Miller - Master - Degree - Service - Security

Miller has a master's degree in foreign service and security from Georgetown University, and has held international development and security positions with Deloitte Consulting and the Council on Foreign Relations. After spending significant time on the ground in places like Iraq, Afghanistan, Bosnia, and Kosovo, he became keenly aware of "criminal organizations operating in many of these places under the surface," and of frequent collusion between criminal groups and governments.

"You could have a government with all the resources, the trappings of legitimacy and legal frameworks, and still have small, illegal organizations that exercise a surprising degree of control in communities," he says.

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