Co(X)ist leverages 3D immersive environments and roleplaying through digital avatars to promote peaceful coexistence through increased cultural awareness and social tolerance.
A lack of cultural awareness and social tolerance often leads to conflict. Education plays a critical role in teaching how to think about others clearly, critically, and with tolerance - skills that are key for avoiding conflict.
Co(X)ist champions the power of virtual and extended reality to create a more tolerant world. By placing 3D digital avatars into various cultural settings, this immersive journey challenges participants to explore different cultures and perspectives firsthand with the goal of promoting peace-filled coexistence. Fostering appreciation and tolerance is essential if we wish to create an inclusive world where everyone feels safe and respected.
We are initiating the program with TechCamp colleagues in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Ethiopia has over 80 different ethnic groups and nationalities which have been in conflict for decades due to lack of cultural awareness and social tolerance. CoXist’s main objectives are to create cultural awareness and promote social tolerance among students through avatar roleplaying.
The avatar roleplaying game involves choosing a character from an alternative ethnicity and being immersed in the culture of that ethnicity. The experience might include wearing and learning about traditional clothing, visiting and learning the history of the regions, eating a traditional meal together, and enjoying cultural celebrations.
Once the learning experience is developed, we will bring it to select educational institutions so that students can participate and play the game. The experience will be structured as a teach-the-teacher experience, so that should students wish to get more involved, they can learn how to run the workshops as well as how to build their own XR experiences, thereby creating opportunities to learn and teach advanced media literacy as well as to better ensure the sustainability of the CoXist program.
As of June 2023, the CoXist team has been awarded an from the State Department to realize further development of the CoXist program. We will be refining the initial project which we received a small grant to initiate in February this year with TechCamp Addis Ababa colleagues in Ethiopia — rolling it out with students in the Amhara, Oromo, and Tigray regions in Ethiopia.
We will be developing details around the game levels, which include: Level 1: Dress your avatar
The first scene involves understanding the culture, whether it be Oromo, Amhara or Tigray, by understanding traditional clothing. The player will be presented with a specific culture and must dress their avatar in that culture’s traditional apparel. Level 2: Getting around
The second scene involves understanding how to get around in the specific locations, for example:
AMHARA: Lalibela, how would you get around? By bike? By bus? By donkey? Why?
OROMO: Woliso, how would you get around?
TIGRAY: In Axum, how would you get around? Level 3: Greetings
The third scene involves understanding the greetings and phrases that might be spoken in that specific culture, such as:
AMHARA: Tena Yistilign” (May God give you health). A casual greeting is to say “Salam” (Hello)
Good morning (Morning greeting) ENDET ADERACHU
OROMO: Good morning (Morning greeting) Akkam bulte? Akkam bultan?
TIGRAY: Good morning (Morning greeting) (kemey Hadirka) (kemey Hadirki) (kemey Hadirkum) Level 4: Having a meal
This scene involves understanding the culture through food. The player is presented with a specific culture and must choose which foods and drinks might be included in a traditional meal, such as:
AMHARA: Enjera, Doro, Shiro, Nefro, Kategna
OROMO: Chuko Kibe, Chumboo, Chororsa
TIGRAY: Ambasha, Hibist, Tihelo, Beso, Tahetah Level 5: Dancing!
This final scene involves understanding the culture’s dances. Once the meal is finished, the player is encouraged to dance a traditional culture’s dance. The player is presented with several different dance moves that their avatar can perform. Once the player chooses the correct dance, they see the dance performed along with an explanation of the dance’s cultural history.
As of February 2023, Josephine and her TechCamp Addis Ababa colleagues won funding to develop a prototype for Co(X)ist. She had previously worked with participants at TechCamp Addis Ababa 2022 in Ethiopia in to realize their shared goal: using technology as a tool for growth towards cultural understanding. The CoXist Ethiopia team will be running a beta test of the learning experience with students in the Amhara, Oromo, and Tigray regions in Ethiopia.
This builds on Josephine’s previous work in the program, specifically with leveraging avatar roleplaying games towards teaching inclusion, as well as storytelling and performative methods towards cultural understanding.