shirley s. leung

Alternative Futures: "Protect me from what I want"

Alternative Futures | 2019 - ongoing

"Protect me from what I want"

My intention is to use alternative futures in virtual reality as a vehicle to explore narratives of race, identity, privilege, and prediction within our social construct with a specific focus on the Asian American Identity with the intention to create a better future.

Keywords: alternative futures, parallel universes, doppelgängers, belonging and displacement, other vs. Other, real vs. artificial, machine learning and prediction, AI


My process for this project began with a deep humanistic desire to better understand, predict and control my own future. As an Asian woman growing up in America, I grew up experiencing a very specific life that is privileged, yet somehow disadvantaged. To better understand how narratives can change through contingency and is affected by decision making, I am investigating the lives of three Asian women. These women, like me, share the same identity and are seemingly interchangeable yet we are actually very different. We each have our own vision of our future.

I’m using text from transcripts of interviews to reexamine the alternative directions my life and their lives can take. These narratives will be processed through machine learning algorithms to control the narratives. I will then create alternative worlds built in virtual reality to explore these narratives. I intend to use this VR experience as a framework in the form of an installative experience for my audience to reconsider their own experience with choices, decision making, privilege, race and identity. The process will allow my viewers to conceptualize how their own future, and society’s future, could be different through tension with technology. Ultimately, this piece will allow the viewer to investigate the malleability of identity and technology, and the fragility of the present within the context of social structures in which we exist.

Research Question

How can we use predictions about the future to better understand how we make decisions today?

How can I use the idea of the alternative future through the lenses of race, identity and privilege to rethink about social constructs?

Prototypes & Methodology

Method 1: Envisioning Alternate Realities/Futures- Crowdsourcing, Role-Play

Method 2: Understanding Sequencing- Concept Map & Mind-mapping

Method 3: Investigating Narratives- Cultural Probes, Directed Storytelling

Dunne & Raby, Speculative Everything

Scene built in Unity.

Generative Realities VR Experience with Voice Over

Generative Realities VR Experience with Voice Over

Generative Realities Text Installation 

Using Format