Research has shown that high-quality ECEC lessens the inequality gap between children of disadvantaged and advantaged backgrounds, increasing the income potential and opportunities for upward social mobility for low-income children later in life. Thus, the US should follow in the footsteps of Nordic countries by improving its ECEC system.
Source: 14th Session of the UN Human Rights Council
By Alisha Saxena
In the midst of extensive debates on how to actualize the power of international human rights law in the global community, two factions of thought have emerged: universalism and relativism. They differ not only in their definition of human rights, but also in their methodology to develop and execute human rights policies. As indicated in its name, universalism stresses that human rights are universal, in that they can and should apply to every individual in the world regardless of religious, cultural, or other differences; thus, its proponents believe in the power of international human rights legislation.Continue reading “OP-ED: Having Faith in Fantasy: Why Universalism is the Future of International Human Rights”
A Bolivian woman in La Paz covers her face with a mask to protect against COVID-19.
Credits: Abad Miranda
By Olivia Bryan
It seems that there isn’t anything new to be said that hasn’t been said already regarding COVID-19. Unprecedented. Once in a lifetime. Unforgettable. Most mainstream media coverage of the pandemic remains fixed on East Asia, Europe, and North America, the three geographical areas that have been hit the hardest. But viruses know no borders, and many smaller, poorer countries are being largely omitted from the coronavirus media narrative. These countries are often the ones most vulnerable to the virus’s externalities: lacking proper medical supplies, social welfare programs, and efficient governance to aid citizens’ health and well-being.Continue reading “How the Developing World is Coping with COVID-19: The Case of Bolivia”
There is an industry that we tend to forget about during the COVID-19 pandemic, despite finding itself in every country on earth: the sex industry.
by Isana Raja
Sex work provides income for over 42 million people worldwide. However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, this “close-contact” profession is now banned, rendering many distraught, unemployed, and at high risk of contraction of the virus. Sex work takes many forms, but prostitution — being paid for sex — seems to be the most relevant when dealing with government laws and legislation. Since prostitution is legally regarded differently by each nation, sex workers are facing the repercussions of the pandemic in vastly different ways. But despite the inconsistencies in the way sex work functions across the globe, it is certain that the coronavirus is drastically changing the sex industry landscape.Continue reading “How COVID-19 is Affecting the Sex Work Industry”
Marketing Director Andrea Velazquez’s Friday Reading List is composed by several articles that discuss the various social and political effects the COVID-19 pandemic has produced around the world.
COVID-19 in The Philippines: The Case Against A Dangerously Inadequate Response: Contributing writer Lauryn Lin writes about the “highly militarized response” of the Philippines to coronavirus restrictions; and how the circumstances of COVID-19 are giving president Duterte room to broaden his regime of cruelty.Continue reading “Friday Reading List”
by Lauryn Lin
Police and armed soldiers now walk the streets of Manila as they try to keep people inside their homes. “Shoot them dead,” ordered Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte in a national address after a protest in Quezon City. The protest occurred at the beginning of April after people had not received relief supplies and food starting March 15 when the COVID-19 lockdown went into motion. Duterte initially enacted a form of martial law back when he first declared the administration’s War on Drugs. Threatening to further this in a time of crisis is reminiscent of his extrajudicial killings that occurred before the pandemic. Duterte’s zero tolerance policy for illegal substances already has many frightened for their lives. The circumstances of COVID-19 are giving Duterte room to broaden his regime of cruelty.
Duterte was granted emergency powers on March 25 with the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act, a measure to allocate funds and direct hospitals to prioritize efforts that target the pandemic. Critics argue against this because of the extreme measures he took when he waged his drug war. Duterte’s orders allow security forces to shoot to kill anyone they feel is a threat. In a personal statement addressing the president’s overstepping of authority, University of the Philippines Law professor Jay Batongbacal said, “No to emergency powers. The existing powers are already being abused.” Duterte’s past points ontaking advantage of these powers are widely regarded as a means of keeping the people in a state of fear. So far he has only asked the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) to work around the clock, never closing under the new twenty-four hour operation. These agencies work to find a vaccine and assess effective medicine for the virus.
Even though the Bayanihan Act’s main purpose is for Duterte to redistribute funding for efforts against the virus, it contains provisions that would punish those who are spreading fake news about the virus. Some say that it could be used to target people opposing Duterte’s regime. “Under such emergency, local government officials risk being booted out from their post for merely adjusting their COVID-19 response to the specific needs of their jurisdiction,” says Rep. Arlene Brosas. As local governments try to figure out the best way to combat the virus, this provision will limit the possibility of exploring every option.
There is one measure in the act however, that allows for Congress to examine Duterte’s actions and regulations in regards to his new emergency powers. Opposition Senator Risa Hontiveros is keeping an eye on how this will be carried out, saying that “The Senate must exercise its oversight functions,” she affirms. “I’ll be very active that Bayanihan Law is exercised without abuse and funds will reach those who need it most.” In addition to this clause in the act, Duterte must also send weekly reports to Congress about how effectively he has utilized these powers.
On May 5, the leading broadcast network ABS-CBN was forced to shut down by orders from the National Telecommunications Commision. Duterte has been targeting the network since his election in 2016 when they refused to run his presidential campaign ads. Since then, they have closely followed the cruelty of the drug war and more recently, have been communicating important updates regarding the current public health crisis. A statement from the network reads, “Millions of Filipinos will lose their source of news and entertainment when ABS-CBN is ordered to go off-air on TV and radio tonight (5 May 2020) when people need crucial and timely information as the nation deals with the COVID-19 pandemic.” The last time ABS-CBN was forced off the air was in September of 1972 during a time of martial law when President Ferdinand Marcos chose not to renew the network’s license. A controversial leader, Marcos was known for his brutality and corruption, quite similar to Duterte. A repeat of the past seems to be becoming a threat to the freedom of press and has even caught the attention of human rights activists.
The United Nations has reported that such a “highly militarised response” from the Philippines with coronavirus restrictions is cause for concern. They also named China, Sri Lanka, and El Salvador as countries who instrumentalized the pandemic as a means to hide their human rights violations. Peggy Hicks, the Director of Thematic Engagement at the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, warned that any restrictions enacted in these states as a response to the pandemic, must be absolutely necessary and of a temporary placement. The United Nation’s unease about how many countries are dealing with the pandemic is indicative not only of the change that needs to occur in the Philippines, but every country scapegoating the health crisis as a means to extend austerely draconian policies across the globe.
Linguistic map of India. Image used under Creative Commons License.
Graduate Fellow Editor
Winston Churchill once advised to never let a good crisis go to waste. In the same vein, the present COVID-19 pandemic is a great opportunity for India to utilize this crisis by presenting itself as an alternative to China in the manufacturing sector. However, under the radar of the news broadcasting focused on COVID-19, there is another ongoing phenomenon manifesting itself in the Indian polity which is going unnoticed—deepening of Federalism in India.Continue reading “COVID-19 and the Deepening of Federalism in India”
President Donald J. Trump and First Lady Melania Trump, joined by President Xi Jinping and First Lady Peng Liyuan. Courtesy of the White House
By Tenzin Chomphel
Editor in Chief
The single most important bilateral dynamic of the 21st century will be that between the United States and China. This was widely known long before COVID-19 had put the Chinese government in a position of disfavor amongst the international community for accusations of failure to address the outbreak early and aggressively. Now, with this new and enormous challenge weighing down on the already strained context of the US-China relationship, the bilateral cooperation necessary to tackle serious global issues such as climate change has become that much more difficult to synthesize.Continue reading “OP-ED: How Will COVID-19 Worsen the Ailing US-China Relationship?”
Photo by Alex Gunn showing graffiti art by refugees in the Zaatari Refugee Camp.
By Michael Murphy
In 2011, the Syrian Civil War placed refugees on the global stage. Amid al-Assad’s barrel bombs, The Syrian Refugee Crisis was born. Videos depicting thousands of people fleeing their homes filled the airwaves. It wasn’t the first case of forced displacement, but European countries reeled from the sudden surge of humanitarian need all the same, with each country giving a kneejerk reaction on how to handle the hundreds of thousands of newcomers fleeing violence. Meanwhile, millions fled to neighboring countries–Lebanon, Turkey, Egypt, Iraq, and Jordan—each already struggling with the refugees of the wars in the previous century. Before long, attention turned to North Africa. Images of rubber boats filled to the brim with desperate souls being tossed on the waves of the Mediterranean became unavoidable. Finally, in 2015, the image of Alan Kurdi, a young boy whose body lay on the beach after having drowned on the journey from Turkey to Europe, drew virulent international outrage.Continue reading “Refugee Lives: Trauma, Celebrations, and Limbo”
Graduate Fellow Editor
Human beings are perhaps cognitively wired for reacting faster to events that come as a sudden shock or stimulate loyal sentiments connected with social identity (race, religion, nation, etc.) than to processes spread over a longer period of time. Thus, the urgency of response by governments across the world to the 9/11 attacks, the COVID-19 pandemic, and global warming lie along a line facing southward while these events unfolded or are unfolding in ascending order of time duration. This cognitive bias manifests itself despite the fact that the likelihood of these three events threatening the survival of our species varies from least to most likely respectively.Continue reading “After COVID-19: Implications on International Organizations and the Global Order”
by Tanvi Bajaj
Blockchain has quickly risen in prominence as an impressively secure and technologically savvy way to record financial transactions. An immutable ledger of information, it was created in order to eliminate the third party source (aka the bank) that people are forced to rely on in order to transfer money. Premised on an agreement by a party of three or more people who record each transaction, blockchain is one of the safest ways to protect valuable financial information. After each “block” of transactions has been recorded, it is sealed by all members of the party using a hash function which not only keeps the information more secure, but also protects it from corruption and mishandling.Continue reading “Blockchain: An Unlikely Advocate for Women”
As we greet the new decade with the greatest international health crisis in modern history, society is braced with the shift into an era of social isolation and greater need for psychiatric treatments. Meanwhile, vanguard movements towards alternative medicines and psychedelic therapy have already started gaining momentum in the healthcare industry and scientific community.
by Rebeca Camacho
The new coronavirus (COVID-19) is not only causing a global pandemic, but it’s also catalyzing the mental health crisis that until now, slipped under the radar. Some economists predict this outbreak will cause the greatest economic recession since the Great Depression, and further exacerbate existing mental health conditions while also giving rise to new ones. COVID-19 is affecting the mental health and productivity of America’s workforce all over the country.Continue reading “Amidst a Global Health Crisis: COVID-19 & The Advent of The Psychedelic Movement”
The globalized, industrialized, and incessantly-driven economic world that we live in is similar to an amateur riding a bicycle. The moment he bears a shock, there is a genuine fear of halting down and falling off the ridge. The COVID-19 Pandemic is fast-emerging as the greatest shock of our times to the world economy.
Graduate Fellow Writer
With curfews enforced by governments to save lives and ceasing of the economic activity, a recession has already begun. It is no wonder that every single indicator of economic activity is heading southward. Industries have closed down, roads are empty, flights are being canceled, and small-businesses are crashing. Even large corporations have begun to bleed. There are genuine doubts about when things will start to become normal again. As companies have started to layoff employees and roll back on hiring, this is the worst time to graduate from college for those entering the job market.Continue reading “The Economic Disaster Wrought by COVID-19”
India’s Citizenship Amendment Act passed by Prime Minister Modi is causing a dangerous divide amongst religious groups in India. With great suffering and resistance fueling the protest, many are fighting back to maintain a unified nation.
by Isana Raja
“My lifetime earnings are all but in ashes.” Business owner Mohammed Azad said about when he awoke to find his shop in shambles. The market, located in a Muslim neighborhood of New Delhi, had sustained Azad and his family for years. But now, it has been vandalized and utterly destroyed, leaving behind a legacy of crumbled concrete— charred and indistinguishable. Residents of the area in the conjoined buildings all had to flee their homes as well, as fire from a tear gas chemical made its way through the street.Continue reading “A New Era of Persecution and Protest: What the Citizenship Amendment Act Means for the Future of India”
Sometimes it is hard to comprehend the magnitude of what is being glorified. Socialist rhetoric and how it led to the demise of Bolivia.
by Sofia Meador Sauto
I cannot help but laugh at my friend as she throws her middle finger up at capitalism and proceeds to tell Alexa to turn off her alarm. Can’t help but chuckle at the stereotypical anti-capitalist rebel, walking down Library Walk with her Birkenstock sandals, preaching about the wonders of all the “free” stuff socialism has to offer. Nor can I help but roll my eyes and smirk at the memory of my professor last quarter who while conveying a talk replete with anti-capitalism and anti-neoliberalism sentiment, dropped his Mercedes car keys. Have these people not seen the detrimental state their socialist wonders are in? Oh, the sentiment of self accomplishment these heretics must feel when going against their dysfunctional capitalist system.Continue reading “Op Ed: Latin America’s League of Socialist Dictators and the Call to Stop Romanticizing Socialism”
by Ariana Roshanzaer
Kashmir is a region in the Himalayas, spanning over 86,000 square miles, and has long been contested for by India and Pakistan, at the center of a conflict between the two countries. Part of this conflict stems from past colonial British rule. In 1947, the British empire granted India independence and Muslim citizens were given separate electoral districts, but the Muslim minority clamored for their own nation, and in the same year, Pakistan was formed. The maharaja (a Sanskrit term for “ruler”) at the time, Hari Singh, decided to join India, even though he originally wanted the region to become independent. India had helped defend the region when Pakistani tribesmen invaded Kashmir. Singh signed the agreement, since India said that Kashmir had join them in order to receive military assistance. Both countries have now claimed Kashmir in full, although the reality is that both countries only have control over certain regions, which are referred to as “Indian-administered Kashmir” and “Pakistan-administered Kashmir”.Continue reading “Understanding the Decades Long Kashmir Conflict”
Kara Tepe Refugee Camp on the Greek island of Lesbos by United Nations Photo
by Raafiya Ali Khan
The Oxford English Dictionary defines sea as the continuous body of saltwater that covers the greater part of the earth’s surface. While the literal meaning of sea can be discovered easily by just a few clicks on the internet, it symbolizes much more than merely a body of water for those attempting to traverse its treacherous waves. The sea is a natural paradox; it is used as a means of survival for most, yet it can also lead to the ultimate end: a watery death. Refugees know the risk of maritime travel, yet choose to sail in dangerous conditions, hoping to arrive at lands that may promise them a better future, rather than the war-torn ones they have left behind. As of 2018, most refugees arriving on Greece’s shores and applying for asylum are from Syria, Afghanistan, and Iraq, escaping a civil war, as in Syria’s case, or violence resulting from domestic unrest and political crises. The most prominent example of the perils refugees face is encapsulated in the 2016 Olympic swimmer Yusra Mardini’s story.Continue reading “War, Sea, and Wall: The Triple Tragedy of Refugees Fleeing to Greece”
COVID-19 Outbreak World Map.
Graduate Fellow Editor
It is safe to say that no other single event in the 21st century after the 9/11 attacks has had a greater impact in the geopolitical arena than the Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic. What began as a disease traced to a wet animal market in China, COVID-19 is already shaping geopolitics across the world. While in a democracy, civil rights groups would have almost surely ensured that no wild animals (let alone endangered species like pangolins) could be sold for consumption, in China, the authoritarian government has allowed wet animal markets to flourish. As a result, here we are, a delicacy for some has transformed into becoming a global pandemic with China itself as its biggest victim.Continue reading “Op-Ed: COVID-19, “Pandemic Diplomacy,” and Re-shaping of the World Order”
A female Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) fighter works on her laptop after arriving in the southern Kurdistan city of Dohuk on May 14, 2013.
by Olivia Bryan
From within the American female progressive movement alone, historic strides in the recent decade come to mind. Leading examples range from the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements against sexual misconduct, to the first Muslim and American indigenous women elected to Congress, and the traction of the nationwide Women’s March protests after United States President Donald Trump’s inauguration. While these are certainly no small feats, it should be noted that western women are not the only women at the cutting-edge of the feminist movement.Continue reading “How Kurdish Women are Setting The World Standard for Feminism”
by Rebeca Camacho
With the rise of populist leaders all throughout the world, scrutiny of social welfare programs reclaimed attention in the political sphere. On Wednesday, January 29, 2020 the University of California, San Diego’s School of Global Policy and Strategy and Center on Global Transformation hosted Pacific Leadership Fellow and Brazilian economist Tiago Falcão, who gave a presentation on the resurgence of populism and its implications on social welfare programs in Latin America. The event took place in the Malamud Room, located in the Institute of the Americas where many scholars, researchers, and industry experts meet to evaluate developments in the region.Continue reading “UCSD Event: Is Populism Reshaping Social Protection in Latin America?”
With the rise of cryptocurrencies in the world market, many Latin American countries are now integrating the digital coins into their national economies. For Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, betting on crypto could be the last resort.
by Sebastian Preising
What does a country do if they are suffering from hyperinflation, rampant government corruption, and are bordering on total economic collapse? Some states may choose to adopt another nation’s currency or elect anti-corruption politicians, others are starting to turn towards unconventional solutions. In Venezuela, Bitcoin has already begun steadily replacing the hyper-inflated Bolivar as the nation’s primary transaction currency. In the last week alone, Venezuela reportedly traded over $350 billion Bolivars for Bitcoin, and continues to do so at an increasing rate.Continue reading “Pegging on The Petro: Venezuela’s Crypto-friendly Strategy to Save a Failing Economy”
Environmental inspectors in northern China have found that seventy percent of the businesses they examined failed to meet environmental standards for controlling air pollution. (Photo by Ella Ivanescu)
by Rachel Chiang
This is a familiar story: China is to blame for climate change, with twenty-seven percent of global greenhouse gases emanating from within its borders. Operating under the desire to generate capital, the “authoritarian” Chinese state condones crippling levels of pollution, to the point at which face masks are daily necessities embraced by residents of Beijing. Any efforts to be environmentally conscious in the United States are futile since China will continue the reckless expansion of its carbon footprint.Continue reading “China’s Paradox: Economic Stimulation vs. Climate Catastrophe Aversion”
by Tenzin Chomphel
Editor in Chief
The back and forth of the best way to resolve extreme poverty, wealth inequality, and just taxation, may often appear endless to most. While global poverty is lowering at a rate of roughly sixty-eight million people per year, that still leaves an unacceptably high level of poverty around the world. Domestically, the United States experiences an estimated thirty-eight million still in poverty, and inequality has additionally been on the rise, with the bottom ninety percent of households accounting for less than a quarter of the total wealth.Continue reading “UBI: The Global Antipoverty Experiment”
By Tanvi Bajaj
In 2015, Senator James Inhofe confidently stepped onto the Senate floor, carrying a snowball. He then explained how global warming (and, in effect, climate change) could simply not exist since it was cold enough outside for the snowball he was holding in his hand to form.
While laughable, Senator Inhofe’s argument is indicative of the centuries of neglect the environment has suffered at human hands.
Today, sea levels are rising, glaciers are melting, forests are burning, and animals are dying.
It’s clear that something needs to change.Continue reading “AI: Changing the Tides of Water Sustainability”
By Max Lyster
In October, Abiy Ahmed, the Prime Minister of Ethiopia, won the Nobel Peace Prize 2019. It might have been the case that many people were perplexed by this surprising announcement because they simply had no idea who Ahmed was. On closer inspection, it is clear why he won the prestigious award: being a fighter for democracy, human rights and peace.
by Marc Camanag
Although there is little consensus on whether Bolivia’s recent shift in leadership constitutes a coup, there is a power struggle plaguing the nation. Amidst widespread protests, it is clear that the resignation of former president Evo Morales carried very real consequences for the Latin American nation and its people. But to what extent? The fall of Morales — the country’s first indigenous president — after nearly fourteen years in office sparked violent protests between his native loyalists and defected police forces. While mostly rooted in deep-seated fears of regression, strong opposing ideologies in Bolivia date back to earlier times involving oppressive post-colonial structures.Continue reading “Bolivia In Crisis: The Legacy of Evo Morales”
by Marshall Wu
When Hong Kong was returned to China by the end the of its lease to the United Kingdom in 1997, among the agreements made between the United Kingdom and China was a fifty-year guarantee of one country, two systems. After over one hundred years under British rule, today Hong Kong is uniquely part-Western and part-Chinese. It is no longer the same city it once was under Chinese emperors. This is apparent in a common viewpoint among Chinese today, who may find Hong Kongers ‘spoiled’. In dramatic difference from the city of Shenzhen, fewer than thirty minutes north, Hong Kong has truly become a dual-language populace. In Hong Kong, cab drivers speak English and street signs retain both Chinese and English spellings.Continue reading “Opinion: No Crackdown in Hong Kong”
by Pankhuri Prasad
Is the world coming to an end? Hopefully not. But it could be the end of world trade as we have known it for the past two decades. During a course I took in the winter of 2018, my International Economics and Politics professor mentioned how the World Trade Organization (WTO) may face a severe crisis in the near future. At the time, the likelihood of such a crisis seemed low and distant. However, with the end of 2019 looming near, international trade is quickly heading into uncharted waters as the Appellate Body of the organization is facing extinction.Continue reading “The Closure of the WTO Appellate Body: The End of World Trade As We Know It?”
by Rachel Chiang
Hong Kong is in the midst of political mayhem. Decades-long concerns are emerging as Hong Kong goes through the most tumultuous period in recent history. What began as a series of protests against an extradition bill has metamorphosed into a widespread opposition movement to police brutality, Beijing, and government ineptness. The presence of violence and foreign intervention has had damning implications for economic advancement and societal stability.Continue reading “Hong Kong: Caught Between Foreign Fires”
by David Ramirez
While student loans may be categorized as the gateway to a chance at a better future, the price we pay for our education has increasingly become a matter of reaching the bottom-line for many of our academic institutions. American political-analyst and historian Thomas Frank once said, “For profit, higher education is today a booming industry feeding on the student loans handed out to the desperate.” According to The Economics of Public Issues anthology collection, the colossal conundrum intertwined in student loans is massive and growing bigger by the day, at around $1.3 trillion, such that this surpasses the total auto loan debt for all Americans. But, what is the solution to the student loan crisis? Well, it depends on how you define it.Continue reading “The C’est La Vie Paradox: A Perspective on Student Loans”
by Nicholas Kishaba
In March, demonstrations began in the streets of Hong Kong, largely in protest against a bill which would essentially allow the Chinese government to extradite fugitives from regions they do not currently control, such as Taiwan, Macau, and Hong Kong. Since then, Hong Kong City Leader Carrie Lam has agreed to withdraw the bill, however, as protests have increased in both frequency and violence, protesters’ demands have consolidated into a call for democracy. Among other demands such as amnesty for arrested protesters, and an inquiry into police brutality, there are also demands for the resignation for Lam, who is believed by the protesters to be a pawn for Beijing.Continue reading “China, Hong Kong, and Basketball: How One Tweet Started a Firestorm in the NBA”
While going to the restroom is a fleeting thought in the daily lives of citizens in urban spaces, as mundane as breathing or walking — for refugees, deciding to use a restroom can be a costly consideration and mean putting their safety at risk.
By Jasmine Moheb
For many of us living in the richest countries in the world, we do not experience the challenges of only having access to restrooms that are over capacity, lack proper safeguards such as doors and locks, and are exposed to outside dangers. However, this is a reality that is faced daily by communities that have been displaced from their homes and are facing uncertain living conditions. Refugees compose a substantial number of the 4.2 billion people in the world that do not have proper access to toilets, according to the United Nations Human Rights Commission. Just one example from the Democratic Republic of the Congo shows that about 55 percent of the 7,217 refugees who arrived in Mulongwe since 2017 have constructed their own latrines due to insufficient facilities. Something that should be a basic necessity is severely limited among those who do not have permanent homes.Continue reading “Under the International Radar: Refugees and Restrooms”
By Priyanka Jhalani
Given the unexpected circumstances of the past few months, COVID-19 forced the corporate world to quickly adjust to a work-from-home model with little warning. Given the new normal, the technology that businesses choose to keep their teams connected and productive is becoming even more important. Remote work was already a rising trend before the pandemic began and is likely to remain intact, if not augmented, post-pandemic. In an era that is defined by its revolutionary technological advancements, organizations seeking to keep employees connected will need solutions that work both during and after COVID-19.
Virtual reality (VR) can be an effective way for companies to replicate the face-to-face communication and informal interactions that employees are currently missing out on while working from home.
Many businesses have invested heavily in designing office spaces that encourage informal interactions and keep employees on-site for longer periods of time, a clear indication of how much corporations value face-to-face interaction. Therefore, not surprisingly, many businesses are looking for solutions to facilitate these in-person interactions without putting their employees at risk of contracting COVID-19. VR offers a better alternative to replicate a face-to-face work environment for employees than only using phone calls and video chats.
Unlike a video chat or an augmented reality platform (think Snapchat), VR allows people to interact in shared virtual environments and provides the shared context that is a given in most in-person meetings. Sharing an environment creates an immersive experience for users which benefits team bonding. Since these environments are available across a range of VR technologies, including desktop and headset VR, companies with varying VR capabilities can still take advantage of this feature.
Similarly, avatars and agents (users control avatars while agents are computer generated) give people the feeling that they are “really there” when interacting with others because they can use cues that they normally would in-person like body language and eye contact. One study even found that the presence of avatars made people less likely to behave aggressively and more willing to compromise, which can prove vital for companies with many virtual teams and negotiations.
Additionally, VR that offers haptic feedback can allow people to shake each other’s hands when meeting for the first time or high-five after accomplishing a task. Although it may seem insignificant or frivolous, touch can be important when building trust and interpersonal relationships, even if it is virtual.
Finally, VR can reintroduce eye contact and gaze in interpersonal communications, which helps establish and maintain trust. A lack of eye contact can be interpreted as an act of deception and lead to feelings of mistrust, ultimately hurting teams. It is often awkward and difficult to maintain eye contact during standard video conferencing because the user is either looking at the camera, missing the other person’s facial expressions and other non-verbal cues, or looking at the other person, appearing as if they are not making eye contact.
VR even allows users to go beyond what would be physically possible if individuals were colocated. For example, employees can simultaneously make eye contact with two people, giving each the feeling of being heard and receiving their full attention at the same time.
VR enables remote team members to form the interpersonal relationships that they normally would in the office by giving employees the opportunity to get to know each other in a way that seems somewhat natural. A likely result of these increased interactions will be that teams perform more effectively and therefore can better contribute to their company’s success.
Aside from strengthening teams, VR is a powerful tool for businesses looking to mitigate the loneliness and quarantine fatigue that their employees are feeling right now. Loneliness in the United States was a pre-pandemic health concern and this crisis has worsened that reality. VR’s immersive nature and ability to mimic in-person communication gives it the potential to reduce feelings of loneliness and isolation, which can help keep people inside and possibly produce a more emotionally fulfilling work experience.
A feeling of connectedness is even more important in countries with collectivist cultures. For example, interpersonal relationships are central to many businesses in India, and therefore being able to maintain them while employees work remotely is a priority.
However, virtual reality is not right for all businesses and is not meant to replace all other forms of virtual communication.
VR is best-suited for companies with a highly collaborative, team-based culture and a digitally literate workforce capable of using the technology from home. For these situations in particular, it can be game-changing as companies virtually onboard new employees and form new teams.
Additionally, workforce demographics can heavily shape the context in which companies need to develop VR strategies. While countries like the United States and Japan have aging workforces that are less familiar with technologically-oriented workspaces, India has one of the largest youth populations entering the workforce which could help Indian companies adjust to online business faster.
Another crucial consideration when constructing a VR strategy is a country’s or company’s digital infrastructure. While India has planned steps to advance digitally, including a government program to build infrastructure to support information and communication technology, Indian companies moving online now may still face issues supporting VR. Alternatively, countries with advanced digital infrastructures like the United States and South Korea are well positioned to implement VR now.
The question of how best to use VR to connect people remains. Answering this question requires further experimentation on the part of researchers and companies. Hypothetically, short intervals of VR usage when employees have the opportunity to interact informally with one another is best. A team bonding event or a few minutes for colleagues to chat before a meeting begins are examples of useful test cases.
Despite VR’s many pros, there are some cons worth examining. Employees experiencing motion-sickness after a VR experience is a possibility businesses should consider when thinking about using the technology. Unfortunately some VR headsets leave female users with more motion sickness than male users, which is thought to be a result of the interpupillary distance in the hardware being built for males rather than females. Businesses can use desktop VR for the time being to address this issue. As it is, VR headsets are sold out for months and the hardware presents significant initial costs. In the longer term, headset costs are predicted to fall as the technology improves, which would lower the barrier to entry for many firms.
It is worth noting that VR has the potential to “reduce appearance-based judgements” through the use of avatars and may be particularly beneficial for introverted users looking to build relationships. Although there is no consensus on which type of appearance based judgements VR can reduce and by what degree, the possibility of reducing bias in the workplace should be explored. Researchers may consider investigating how using VR affects biases based on beauty, race and/or ability.
VR provides an excellent opportunity for businesses to recreate face-to-face experiences in the midst of a global pandemic that has left people more isolated. It has the potential to facilitate informal interactions and interpersonal relationships that help teams perform while also reducing social distancing fatigue. The technology is worth considering as firms wade into increasingly uncertain waters. For corporations around the world, VR might just become the new normal.
Victor Orban, Hungarian Prime Minister, meeting Donald Tusk, former President of the European Council. Image used under Creative Commons License.
By Maxwell Lyster
On March 30, the Hungarian Parliament voted 137 to 53 to give the autocratic, nationalist Prime Minister Victor Orbán the right to rule by decree indefinitely. The proposal was rammed through by his party, the Fidesz, which holds 117 of the 199 seats. While many other nations have given leaders excess power during the global pandemic, Hungary is different in the sense that Orbán can even cancel elections and suspend the enforcement of certain laws at his own discretion. He can also judge who is spreading misleading information and throw them in jail. Orbán has been given near-total control of Hungary for the foreseeable future.Continue reading “Dictatorship in Hungary Raises Serious Questions about EU and NATO Membership”