Using Mixed Reality and a Performance Artist to Study Parenting

Thursday, 15 July 2010: 10:50 AM

Karen Aroian, RN, PhD, FAAN
Office of Research, College of Nursing, University of Central Florida, Orlando, FL
Jeff Wirth, BA
Digital Media, University of Central Florida, Orlando, FL
Charles Hughes, PhD
Electircal Engineering and Computer Science, University of Central Florida, Orlando, FL
Eileen Smith, MA
Institute of Simulation and Training, University of Central Florida, Orlando, FL


This paper will describe interdisciplinary research efforts to develop an alternative strategy for studying parenting support for minority youth coping with discrimination. Both the literature and previous research experience suggest that traditional paper and pencil self reports do not yield valid information. Arab American Muslim families were the focus because they are frequently targets of discrimination.

Methods: A series of interdisciplinary team meetings were held to identify the best technology for eliciting parenting as bidirectional and synergistically shaped by parents and children.  Additional requirements were for data to be collected in real time, in a naturalistic setting embedded in situational and cultural contexts. Mixed reality with live inter-actors digitally puppeteering computer simulated adolescent avatars was selected as the optimal method. The first steps were to develop the narrative structure for inter-actors to use when eliciting parental support and training the inter-actor to “be” an Arab Muslim adolescent boy or girl. The nurse researcher and a performance artist co-led Interactive play groups with adolescents. The performance artist had experience developing live, human-to-human, interactive story experiences. Adolescents were asked to volunteer personal incidents of discrimination and the performance artist engaged them in interactive play to portray the incident. The nurse researcher concurrently prompted them for accompanying thoughts and feelings.
Results: The adolescents were highly engaged and reported enjoying the experience. With minimal prodding, they provided in depth description of details, thoughts, and feelings. Teacher-initiated insults were common. Both boys and girls described identity markers (names for boys, dress for girls) that commonly provoked discrimination but boys also explained that they can “pass” as belonging to another ethnic/religious group.
Conclusion: Computer scientists and engineers helped the nurse researcher apply technology to solve methodological challenges to studying parenting. The performance artist was also an essential member of the interdisciplinary team.