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Podcast: Exploring empathy and virtual reality

  • VR user

June 2016

Listen here to our first film podcast, as we talk to curator Mark Atkin, research psychologist Maria Panagiotidi and Notes on Blindness filmmakers James Spinney and Peter Middleton about exploring empathy and virtual reality technology.

British Council collaborated with Sheffield Doc/Fest’s ‘Alternate Realities Summit’ to discuss empathy and virtual reality (VR) technology.

Working with with a research psychologist Maria Panagiotidi we set up a an ‘Empathy Station’ as part of the festival’s Interactive gallery, aiming to draw attention to unconscious bias and ways that this could be changed through empathy-evoking technology like VR.

Virtual reality has been labelled ‘the ultimate empathy machine’ and ‘the machine to make us more human’ and this year, one of the most lauded documentaries of the festival (and the winner of festival’s Storytelling and Innovation Award) Notes on Blindness included a VR project called Into Darkness.

The documentary's subject, writer and academic John Hull, found his sight finally vanished completely after decades of deterioration and was moved to document his new world in stunning clarity on audio cassettes. Into Darkness vividly recreates Hull's world through his own words, adding a singular dimension to the already emotive documentary.

At Doc/Fest, British Council Film Programme Manager Jemma Desai caught up with the curator of the Doc/Fest summit Mark Atkin, research psychologist Maria Panagiotidi and Notes on Blindness filmmakers James Spinney and Peter Middleton to discuss the ‘e word’ and the impact the discussion is having on their work.

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