Cover art for podcast The Institute of Black Imagination.

The Institute of Black Imagination.

34 EpisodesProduced by darioWebsite

Welcome to The Institute of Black Imagination hosted by artist, writer, and brand consultant Dario Calmese. Each week we bring you conversations from The Pool of Black Genius: a collection of iconoclasts at the leading edge of cultural thought and innovation. More than anything, we are here to inspi… read more


E4. Racial VR Immersion w. Psychologist Dr. Courtney Cogburn.

In today’s episode we chat with psychologist, Dr. Courtney Cogburn.  Hailing from Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, Doctor Cogburn’s research focuses on how racism contributes to health disparities amongst Black Americans and in particular how over time, blatant and subtle racism in media stresses and literally wears down Black bodies—a phenomenon also known as “weathering”—something we have all witnessed to during the current outbreak of Covid-19 in the United States, and its devastating effects on communities of color.

An associate professor at Columbia’s School of Social Work, Dr. Cogburn’s racial immersion VR experience, 1000-Cut Journey, debuted at the Tribeca Film Festival in 2018. Developed in collaboration with the Virtual Human Interaction Lab at Stanford University, It allows for the viewer to experience life as a Black man, from adolescence through adulthood, and has been featured on TEDx, CBS, and Forbes.

In this conversation we discuss when she first began to notice the correlation between race and academic achievement (5:00), the effects of "breathing racism" (13:00), how watching videos of police brutality is bad for our health (18:46), how reason rarely works as well empathy (22:00), a step-by-step explanation of her racial VR experience (28:04), how her lack of experience with virtual reality didn't keep her from pursuing her goals (34:22), her biggest failure as a researcher (41:40), how her own son changed the way she works (43:18), why higher education has health benefits for every demographic, except for those of African decent (46:48), and the ways in which VR is being used to help Black people begin to heal from a lifetime of racial stress (59:26). Given where we are as a country and a people, I found this conversation to be right on time.

Links we mention in the episode:

Courtney's Twitter Account: @courtneycogburn
Her Racial VR Experience: 1,000-Cut Journey
Hyphen Labs: Neurospeculative Afrofeminism

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