Space for Virtual Reality


Aubrey Simonson 2021

Aubrey Simonson

Studying group dynamics in space environments with virtual reality simulations to inform the design of future governance systems

The political scientist Deborah Stone argues that identity and group formation are some of the most elemental tasks of politics because both “policy and thinking about policy are produced in political communities” (2002, 10). Policymaking involves “a constant struggle over the criteria for classification, the boundaries of categories, and the definition of ideals that guide the way people behave” (2002, 11). 

As we imagine potential futures of human space exploration, trajectories of the space economy, and establishment of space-based communities, we must also consider the types of political communities that might inhabit such worlds. 

  • Does our knowledge of how human social identities and political communities form and operate on Earth translate to the environments of space?
  • How might our understandings of how political communities are formed and modified influence our present-day thinking about governance institutions? 
  • How might future space governance institutions help us avoid some of the identity-based conflict we have seen on Earth?

These questions help to motivate a line of research into individual and group psychological processes we might expect to see in space. In a set of initial studies, we are examining the effects of awe and self-perception on the formation of social identities. Ultimately, we aim to use these and future studies to inform the architectures of space governance systems.