Lars Jan
  • Lars Jan
  • Los Angeles, CA
  • United States

Artistic Director / Founder, Early Morning Opera

This conversation is closed.

How can creatives use new technologies to increase empathy across cultural and geographic distances?

I'm fascinated by how people feel close to one another and how the answers to that question are evolving.

Live TED Conversation: Join TED Fellow Lars Jan

Lars is a media artist and founder of Early Morning Opera, a multidisciplinary art lab creating works about "America right now."

This conversation will open at 1:00PM ET on November 18th

Closing Statement from Lars Jan

THANK YOU ALL CONTRIBUTORS ! Lots of insight, passion and bunch of new threads to follow. I think the conversation veered towards empathy as relates to how we experience the world via the web, which seems like the trunk of this conversation. I'm also curious about what other branches will evolve — comments about universal translation and the future of gaming sparked my imagination in particular.

Benedict Anderson calls nations 'imagined communities.' We are pretty successful at imagining our affiliation with 300 million other folks, and that was the case well before the web and other social tools emerged. I'm constantly wondering about how we might expand that number to about 7 billion. 300 million and 7 billion both feel like infinity, at least to me. So I'm essentially imagining the same thing anyway.

Looking forward to connecting with you again, in thought or person as the case may be, somewhere down the line. Thanks again for sharing your passion! Onwards and upwards...

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    Nov 18 2011: Hi everyone out there in non-TV land, thanks for tuning in to the unanticipatable (and misspelled) stream of words that follow. I should say at the outset, questions around the expansion of the empathic phenomenon are central to my research as an artist, but I am far from an expert in the area. My hope for this conversation is to hear about ideas that are new to me, and to have some perspectives I’m familiar with reframed. In short, please crush me with your insight and confound me with your questions.

    Let the games begin.
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      Nov 18 2011: I posted a question up above, but I'm also a creative whose research centers around how artists (particularly storytellers) can inspire empathy across cultural boundaries. What new technologies, other than video, would you consider in your art?
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    Nov 18 2011: Emoticons: That's also how we share our emotions with those we communicate with.
    • Nov 18 2011: I disagree. We also communicate via hyperlinking-- we can determine someone's tendencies and moods by what sort of content they choose to share online. 140 characters allows us quite a bit more than you'd expect. It links us to more information
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    Nov 18 2011: As a software engineer and avid "Gamer" I am struck by the type of interactions that are being promoted in video games and have been since the inception of the medium. Video Games are the media of the next generation. They are playing call of duty far more hours than they are watching television. For the developed world I believe this is becoming the norm. If we are going to increase empathy in the next generation, cross culture, I think we need to provide experiences in this medium which are engaging and create empathic reactions in the player. One amazing example (while somewhat sexist) is the game ICO by Japan Studio. It's rather dated now, but nearly the entire game mechanic is driven off of causing the player to empathize for and want to protect Yurda (a frail young girl). What's more, the character interacts with the player entirely without words (she does not speak english or japanese) and instead uses body language and physical emotes, so the experience is the same no matter which culture you are from. Upon reading this topic I immediately thought of the juxtaposition of ICO (which was made in Japan) and Call of Duty (which was made in the US). One is an amazing training tool for empathy, while the other seems to be an amazing training tool for shameless one-up-manship and the disregarding of any human life not "on your team". We need artists with vision in this industry if we are going to create cross-cultural experiences like ICO that expand the next generation's capacity for empathy. I could go on for hours, but the conversation is closing :]
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      Nov 18 2011: On this note, I really appreciate another TED fellow, Jane McGonnigal, who encourages more gaming and harnessing that energy toward social change.
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      Nov 18 2011: Hey Arne, just caught this post from earlier. I entirely agree with you here. Just like HBO revitalized what TV could be for an audience that had largely given up on it — and also sparked a bunch of competitors to raise the level of their offerings — I wonder when some game visionary will create an interactive experience that is much more than entertainment. This may exist, and I just don't know of it....
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      Nov 18 2011: Fascinating example (ICO) - thanks Arne. In related turf, Deepak Chopra has a new meditation game called "Leena" I think. I've long thought that the field of computer gaming was in it's infancy and has a lot more promise than has been realized thus far. Now - how to combine live, human performance with the games?
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    Nov 18 2011: Lars, before the clock runs out, I just want to thank you for setting up this discussion. I've really enjoyed it, and learned a little along the way. :) Good luck with your projects.
  • Nov 18 2011: It's about people, get volunteers to 'walk a mile in other people shoes. Have a shoe exchange programme and do the daily routine swapped and blogged presented side by side
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    Nov 18 2011: Time for an odd question: Let’s say the world was given an empathy grade by some intergallactic intelligent friends. What would you guess that grade might be, and do you think we have a good chance of improving it next, uh, semester?
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      Nov 18 2011: Considering the world is run by corporations and businesses, the goal of which is to increase shareholder profits and not to build community or create empathy, I think we, as humans, would be hard pressed to see ourselves having a really awesome grade to interstellar onlookers.
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      Nov 18 2011: Good question.

      In times of large-scale war we tend to believe that we're less empathetic. How can I humanize the enemy? I would guess we're a lot less empathetic than we should be. B-? How's that for a grade?

      Let me redirect the question: In such a globally connected world is there such a thing as too much empathy?
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        Nov 18 2011: NEVER! Never ever ever! :)
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          Nov 18 2011: Well, if we get sci-fi for a moment, and I feel wholeheartedly what anyone else, world wide might feel. Then how do I cope everytime someone's mother dies, if I feel like it's my mother? How do we not grind to an emotive hault? Now this is a bit tongue in cheek, and certainly not our problem a the moment. I wish we had this problem...
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        Nov 18 2011: Given Lars's last point, yes, it would be difficult to experience every mother's death as our own mother's death. However, I think if we did experience tragedy on a much deeper and personal level, we would understand what mourning is, or what celebration means, and the importance of rituals that help us process those emotions.
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    Nov 18 2011: As a story teller, ill say stories is the best medium of increasing empathy across culture. The way we tell stories has evolved over the time but still the essence remains. We can take those stories, the stories of the legends that are being respected across the geographies and string them together in a continuous motion picture.
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      Nov 18 2011: where does the continuous motion picture premiere and how do i get a ticket?
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        Nov 18 2011: I believe we can premiere it when we join hands together, on my blog I tried to string ancient mythology to modern Science fiction to create a vivid concept of a fantasy story. The elements are the same they behave in modern context
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      Nov 18 2011: I agree Siddhesh. Story telling is also more personable because the teller is giving voice and action to the story. Experience is the best teacher, so when people can share in the experience they create a common bond.

      Technologicallly speaking we can all fly to the top of the mountains and watch the sun rise over the valleys. An image we can all share. But when someone tells you about the trip up the mountain, the personal side of the adventure... it becomes so much more.
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        Nov 18 2011: Ok, can we reframe this idea of storytelling, and consider how we might reimagine what the news has become? How can the news bring us much richer, more vital stories?

        Kill. the. Sound. bite!
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          Nov 18 2011: Kill the sound bite also sounds great.... there should also be a modern touch to the ancient stories, something like restoring an ancient artifact, we restore the ancient legends in modern context and broadcast it over the internet to the world.
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          Nov 18 2011: I would say the obvious answer is to make those stories into experiences. I posted already a diatribe on the subject, but I think interactive media would be the perfect way to bridge that gap between telling someone about an experience which evokes empathy, and having a person actually experience that emotion. I have long thought that the best way to help the first world appreciate what it is like to live in the third world would be to create an engaging interactive story which takes place there, and put the user in the role of someone trying to survive. Perhaps as a young woman in Somalia right now for example. I have no doubt an interactive piece of entertainment like that would change minds. The hard part will be creating one which is engaging enough that the user will not turn it off to protect their more comfortable model of the world. I think it can be done however.
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          Nov 18 2011: I don't think it's up to the news to provide richness in storytelling, per se. The objective is to disseminate information. There need to be a class of storytellers, perhaps artists, documentarians, writers, who will take the soundbites and fill them out with vitality.
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          Nov 18 2011: Body language. Currently the news is related by a person sitting behind a desk in front of a video monitor or standing on scene. But the delivery is cold, sober and analytical.

          When there is banter amongst the news team, it creates a sense of camaraderie that the viewer can relate to. If this could be drawn into the news stories, particularly stories that relate to the viewer immediately. i.e. news of an earthquake elsewhere in the world doesn't directly affect the viewer/listener so the story doesn't need to be as compelling. But something that affected the local community should be delivered with more emotion/human connection.

          Maybe not the reframe you were thinking? (I'm writing and this and arguing both sides in my head. lol).
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        Nov 18 2011: Lovely, this statement Selina

        //. But when someone tells you about the trip up the mountain, the personal side of the adventure... it becomes so much more.//

        We have come a long way from telling stories around campfire to news bites. People are loosing the personal touch behind the story. A news remains objective, while in fact it should be personal. People consider other geographies as objects, like They do this, They do that, general stereotyping, which loses empathy towards each other.
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          Nov 18 2011: That's a good point Siddhesh, particularly about objectivity. In fact, what happened to objectivity in journalism? It seems like we traded that idea in? Any journalists, reporters, news bloggers out there? Where does objectivity fit into the conversation with story-telling as a means of understanding someone else's situation? Is that even a relevant component in the idea of "news"?
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        Nov 18 2011: Arne, I wonder if what you differentiate here: "that gap between telling someone about an experience which evokes empathy, and having a person actually experience that emotion."

        is really the same thing? The way I imagine it, they are. Also, the real trick with all these simulations is that the player / user / viewer knows that they can leave, that they will end. Tricky...
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          Nov 18 2011: I always debate about Journalist, they cannot be subjective as for the profession of journalism is not a social service but a paid service to relay news. If they dwelve in emotions and empathy in the news they will never be able to get back to work the next day nor be able to scoop news out of it. No, in 'News' you cannot create empathy but have to remain objective, while in story telling you can use Blogs, Twitter, social media tools to broadcast terms.
    • Nov 18 2011: Good point. Movies can make a really big difference. The problem with the global culture regarding movies (and music) right now is that it's very focused on the US (though sometimes it also includes UK and Canada). This creates lots of empathy and understanding toward Americans. If we reach a point when it's normal to have movies from all around the world in our local cinema, instead of just local and American movies, we will reach a high point of empathy, tolerance, and understanding between cultures. Now, almost all non-American movies are shown in only their country.
  • Nov 18 2011: I think one of the big issues in spreading empathy and understanding is that many people never touch that wonderful piece of art that would inspire them.

    They just never see it or hear their personal heart-piercing piece, though it's out there! The number of artworks, be they visual, musical, sculptural, written or performed, is just too big.

    What would be needed is a sorting out, a personal selection, a little pond in the ocean. How would this work? Technology is the key of course!

    A sorting algorithm wouldn't work; art can't be summed up. But what would work (and I know of experiments where it is already running, in some cases badly, in others brilliant) is a personal "buddy" style recommendation system; your friends know what you dig. Now let them see what else is amongst your most beloved books/ songs/ exhibitions, see if there are parallels, recommend them something.

    I would love to see this happening for people who simply do not have the time or will to search through countless pieces of art to find their special gems. For example, I consider myself an absolute art-junkie, I NEED new music, books, paintings as often as I can get them, but my taste is so eclectic and fine that I wad through rivers of things that I cannot connect to.

    Now what should an elderly man do, in a retirement home? I get it why in so many places the TV runs on the same channel everyday. But I want to believe that for every one there are beautiful, amazing things out there, that just have to be tried! I would love to bring it to them! I would never have believed that I could be so enthralled by something, but I just had to randomly get free tickets for a modern ballett performance until I knew!

    This is what I want. Confront people everywhere with the most amazing, most different things they have ever seen, and let them find their taste. Best case with a personal recommendation from a friend. Like last.fm, or better: linoq.
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      Nov 18 2011: Hi Erik, there's a briliant spark in here — that I think takes what FB has done for exposing people's favorite whatevers to a whole other level. What you're talking about is sort a revolution in what a "library" is and who the "librarians" are. We need that revolution. Badly.
      • Nov 18 2011: Excuse the taste of sweet-talking you into a voodoo spell, but that revolution is starting up already. Linoq is a platform that is trying that, for the moment, for independent musicians, and it's doing it via facebook. I find it pretty hot, but it needs attention! Too many musicians just can't make it because they don't get the attention they deserve. They want to export to other art platforms. I would so love to see a truly networked world, with everyone getting their deserved (and possible!) audience!
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      Nov 18 2011: Awesome! I think Pandora does that with music. Also iTunes Genius. Maybe even Netflix? A way to sort music and movies into genres that I'd like.
  • Nov 18 2011: Interesting question! To kick start empathy you have to initiate understanding. Using an online co-creation platform where others can participate in the process of creation will facilate just that. Providing instant (audio and visual) feedback on the results will grow commitment, necessary for empathy to increase. Currently I'm not aware of such platform. But surgeons are able to work on a 'distant' patient, so the technology is already available.
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    Nov 18 2011: Hello Lars, I'm new to TED conversations, so this is an experiment. Authors Lynne McTaggert and Penney Peirce both address this issue. Have you read either of their books?
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      Nov 18 2011: it's all an experiment to me, and welcome. I, sadly, know neither. Please share relevant titles to you. Thanks!
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    Nov 18 2011: This is a great topic - and one rife with challenges, I think, as my experience working with others to create art has led me to believe that there really is no replacement for the "face-to-face" experience, as least as far as performance art is concerned.
    • Nov 18 2011: I'm not sure I agree. I think it's mostly true but I can be a shy person, so I participate with people I'm shy around more online.
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      Nov 18 2011: You're right, there is the feeling of unity when you're a part of an audience and you're able to get a very real visceral feeling when you actually see a performance. However, the internet and new technology allows for audience members to come from all over the world to hear your message and your voice as the performer. How can we give those audiences the same visceral experience?
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        Nov 18 2011: These are big questions for me. I made a performance recently that was also filmed live, with the camera embedded into the performance rather than "documenting" from the outside. I found that many folks watching the video, edited to 4 minutes from 60, had a surprisingly strong experience of the work. I'll also mention that about 5 times (and counting) as many people saw the work online as were able to take in the event itself...

        My overall feeling is that live events are going to become increasingly crucial in our mediated lives, BUT that the way we interact online and connect can become immeasurably deeper once we stop flailing about amidst the newness of it all.
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          Nov 18 2011: "once we stop flailing about amidst the newness of it all."

          That is such a relevant statement! I love it! I have a professor who really loves the idea of collaborating and interacting in virtual worlds like Second Life and World of Warcraft. It is always really off putting to think about this platform for some reason. But as long as we're thinking out of the box, and talking about new ways to utilize technology to connect, collaborate and create, then perhaps it is worth mentioning.

          The only problem with that is, as creatives, we want to exemplify what it means to be human, that is the spark of empathy building. And a platform like second life allows for a lot of hiding behind avatars. Perhaps there is a way to utilize the community building strategies of online gaming, but in a much more real way?
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    Nov 18 2011: What other technologies, other than video, would you consider using in your art to meet the goal of inspiring empathy across cultural boundaries? (I'm an aspiring documentarian, struggling artist-poet-writer, and all around creative who seeks to use my passions to promote social change and hopefully engage other artists in using their work to change the world)
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      Nov 18 2011: good question. I definitely come at this first from considering how new communication technologies are expanding our abilities to see ± feel so-called distant lands. So, while we had news reels bring us the war and/or protests in the 40s, TV in the 60s + 70s, and now youtube, or livestream today... the evolution in question is really one of the moving image.

      But something like Usha Hidi, that let's one track disaster reports from individuals as the crisis unfolds, is a much more dispersed way of tracking individual experiences.

      I think beyond video, new places and ways to share comments and ideas — blogs, sites, apps — are extremely revolutionary in terms of how the global community has a conversation.
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        Nov 18 2011: Are there other definitions of new technology that an artist can use? Can online forums be better designed to enhance collaboration and cross cultural conversations? What about Joseph Gordon Levitt's project that is completely collaborative: http://www.hitrecord.org/
    • Nov 18 2011: Anything and everything.
      Images, Proses, one liners.
      Carefully making information easily digestible in a simple para.

      Everything is a step forward, no matter how small.
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        Nov 18 2011: Yes, those are all great, but with the development of new technology, how can you disperse those forms of media in a world where communication is so much easier than it used to be?
        • Nov 18 2011: I feel they all are easily distributable. One liners and images on social media provides more information [to me] since it is less time consuming.
          < I am not sure if I am understanding the question or problem correctly >
    • Nov 18 2011: other technologies? i would say that media that can somehow resemble or enhance actual presential dialogue have the best chances. And another important level is that of cultural bias, the technology should establish something close to an etiquette or common code.
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        Nov 18 2011: have you seen any attempt out there at defining the terms of this etiquette? this is fun, though not exactly what we're talking about: http://eetiquette.com/
        • Nov 18 2011: yes "etiquette" sounds like funny and stiff. I meant common codes... but to me the overall basis is to set common goals as an incentive for empathy in cross cultural interaction, such as a common task or interest that can even be playful. Empathy grows when we drop our guard, i think.

          About virtual body language, that is an ambitious concept. I bring it up because the closer you can get to a real conversation, there is more room for empathy.

          When the head up for this came up in facebook, i expected a video. The fact that it turned put to be this forum, a public space made it more interesting, more 2.0 if you will, as long as we all know english of course. I registered ad hoc and have not uploade a picture, and am aware that showing a human face naturally enhances closeness, if we could add gesturing to this the "relational quality" would be even better.
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    Nov 18 2011: Thank you all for this engaging conversation!
    • Nov 18 2011: I think the notion of crippling levels of empathy is a valid one. Although it isn't a problem for our society it may be a problem for individuals who would change things - thus high suicide rates among veterans, high numbers of people taking anti-depressants. On the other hand the revival of Ayn Rand is a frightening one since she despised the notion of empathy and glorified the self-sufficient few. I heard a woman call into an NPR show saying that she and her family are healthy, live healthy life styles, work to keep healthy. She honestly wanted to float the question: why should I pay for health insurance for people who cannot say the same. I loved that woman for at least admitting she feels the question and for her happy innocence - may it last. Compassion admits that anything can happen to anyone, that tragedy is not a punishment, not a sign of some moral failure, that we are unequipped to judge although we may be equipped to help. Empowering compassion what we want.
  • Nov 18 2011: With smartphones becoming a more mainstream communication tool, the method for people to find each other physically and interact within different physical spaces is becoming more important.

    Because the technology is based inherently on mobility and transmission of information, smartphones want to create an environment that changes depending on where you are physically.

    As a graduate thesis project I wanted to focus on how specific places contain history that when in the presence of the place, activates a different sense of understanding of that place. Personal histories are important and technology should open up how people can recall their memories with smartphones being a great tool. Creating spaces that otherwise would remain inert.
  • Nov 18 2011: hi, sorry just saw the posting...so i'll make it quick, time is running out. what strikes me about the question is the word 'empathy' and i wonder, are you using it as an active or passive agent? 'inspire' leans towards more the 'active' use, but empathy, unfortunately, can often end up being a fleeting moment, a feeling, a 'ohhh' and then, it's gone. can i assume that in asking the question using the word 'empathy' you are also leaning towards the 'active' also regarding action, whether on a larger or more personal day to day level?
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    Nov 18 2011: One model for how technology and in-person performance can work together is to structure it so that the recorded or broadcast version of a live, in-person performance creates interest and actually enhances or elevates the value of the in-person performance. I've been thinking a lot about the value of watching a theater performance unfold in front of you, and that feeling of shaping it, sometimes subtly (in the case of traditional theater) and sometimes overtly (in more overtly participatory theater).
  • Nov 18 2011: Character Education Partnership is currently developing its web presence to be more interactive and a fuller resource for educators, students, parents, and community members at large to understand character education (which includes empathy) and its necessity to develop a more just and compassionate citizenry.

    This topic is especially of interest to us because we are working to develop the answer to exactly this question. Thank you for everyone who has contributed an idea and TED for hosting such an interesting and lively conversation! Excellent idea!

    Right now, our vision is to revamp our website to be much more engaging and sharable. We want educators to find the resources they need to deliver the best education possible, and we strive to do that by providing access to exemplar schools' lesson plans, "promising practices", and more.
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    Nov 18 2011: How abut some non-web based examples of new technologies that help us push into places and people with which we are less familiar? Any ideas / examples?
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      Nov 18 2011: The BMW Guggenheim Lab is a great example of a physical space where people gather and technology is used to tell a compelling story and facilitate an in-person discussion. Most of the topics were focused on city-planning and hyper-local issues which makes paying attention easy, since issues pertain to your back yard but those local topics I was largely unaware of.
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      Nov 18 2011: The Levi's Filmmakers Workshop that was a part of the Street Art exhibit at the Los Angeles MOCA was an incredible educational vehicle that taught anyone and everyone who wanted to learn how to make a movie or an animation. I met some really amazing creative people of all shapes and sizes and they all had their own messages, visions and dreams!
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      Nov 18 2011: I think personal universal language translation is about a decade away. Language is one of the great barriers to the inter-connection of cultures, and if that technology becomes a reality I think we will start to see a lot more travel between areas of the world, and more importantly it will become much more difficult for countries like China to filter what information their population has access to. Already things like website translation have revolutionized access to information from other cultures, I'm looking forward to the day when language is more of a thin film than a brick wall in terms of our communication.
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        Nov 18 2011: I can't even begin to comprehend what universal language translation would portend. My mind is blown just thinking about it.
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        Nov 18 2011: I saw a story on television about a deaf woman who traveled through China on her own. She said that she had very little problem making her self understood. (Personal interaction evoking empathy and understanding through gesture and mime).

        So while the world's languages are diverse there is still a universal language of humanity that we share. It's intangible, but most of it is the facial expressions, body language and tonal qualities.
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          Nov 18 2011: Sure, I've traveled a ton with just a handful of hand gesture, and a ton of patience and time. But I could never be particularly interesting, or funny — and I always felt so frustrated at the fact that here I was, in the presence of people who I'll never likely meet again, and I just can't ask the questions I want to ask... Still, there's something so fundamental about realizing that you don't need to talk to have a pretty great time with strangers...
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    Nov 18 2011: Personally, I believe that socail media allow us to empathise with people by allowing to observe what they think, share and like. Emphatising is recognising what they feel, and letting them know.
    It would be interesting to see if social media have the ability to increase levels of oxitocyn in people.

    In a different way, showing people videos taken from one's camera viewpoint, allows them to share one's own perspective of the world. Head mounted cameras are used to study how experts interact with machines (human factors), and the ability to see things through the eyes of others allow the development of empathy (and tolerance).

    And then there is the usual catarsys by emphaty. TED sure enough gets me into emphatising a lot with their best speakers. I feel closer to them than quite some acquaintances.

    Well, that's what I think ... or some of it
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      Nov 18 2011: Loredana, your empirical experience points the way, or, at least, a way. It seems like the internet is the key to everything herein, and I wonder if anyone has examples of new technologies that bring us closer to those far away from us that are not dependent on the web?
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        Nov 18 2011: Games create empathy. I use them a lot in my training. A shared game with little data transfer with far away people may actually be a good way to give them a sense of togetherness.

        I sort of did that with Antarctic winter over personnel after I trained them. Involved them with a mistery game. But technology was not new. Satellite, email, videoconference.

        Same technologies to keep close to astronauts during their spaceflights (mainly they call using IP phone which goes via satellite). Not really new though ... but sure this enables empathy.
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    Nov 18 2011: Thanks for your patience everyone! I'm trying to keep up!
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    Nov 18 2011: Global internet-based networks help us gain a broader understanding of fellow humans. As said by Chimamanda Adichie in her talk "The danger of a single story" and Sam Richards in "A radical experiment in empathy", it is much easier to cast the "other" in a single light where one's sentiments are too often narrowed down to pity or villainizing when our knowledge base is limited. Through dialogue about what actually is, rather than what we've stereotyped a portion of the world to be, we can gain a more realistic view of people we've developed assumptions about.

    As I see it, the issue that remains to be addressed is this: when putting out a story or an artistic expression - how do you encourage your public to interact? Conversation will always be more inherently powerful than a statement in my mind, as it encourages one to engage the dialogue and develop personally.

    The internet is a great foundation for global interaction, yet when encouraging empathy we must develop interaction.
  • Nov 18 2011: Yes, technology can enable global conversation, but to engender empathy requires a sense a closeness that comes from personal impact. Can I understand what your pain or joy feels like? How is that made real for me?

    During the disasters in Japan I was taking an online Cultural Anthropology course. One of my fellow students was Japanese. I could watch all the videos, read all the news, yet that one personal contact made the experience all the more personal and therefore more painful, frightening, sad, and ultimately uplifting, for me.

    So the question, in my mind, becomes how do we build the bridges that enable a plethora of personal 1:1 or F:F social ties that cross cultural and geographic distances.
  • Nov 18 2011: hey!

    i'm into an artistic research trying to build a bridge between a theater show and some flash-mobs. my goal is to find my own approach to a theater stage. and also the my own meaning of art... and also to re-unite people using their breath by dancing together. the show and the flash-mobs can interact through internet. images of the flash-mobs can be seen during the show, where people are invited to attend the next flashmob. and people attending the flashmob are invited to attend the show.

    my goal is to create moments of human unison on breath through the virtual: internet and a stage...

    here is a video of my flash-mob project:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8kD3D6HX3Nw

    my utopia is that my choreography would be danced around the world. and maybe one day, male a performance with skype in which many parts of the world are dancing the choreography at the same moment, live...

    do you think that ca n increase empathy across cultural and geographic distances?
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      Nov 18 2011: Clement, well you certainly don't have trouble thinking small! I think the idea of a flash mob is fascinating, and it's an artistic tool that is going to evolve in meaningful ways. Increasingly we'll see spontaneous gatherings (which people are soooo thirsty for — it's a desert out there!) activated not-only by the wow factor of the happening itself (ALan Kaprow, thank you), but also by a deeper attention to ideas and meaning within these gatherings.
  • Nov 18 2011: evoking empathy in 140 characters or less is difficult! How do we connect people's short-attention span experience of the world with those of people half a world away?
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      Nov 18 2011: Oo, great question. Ever shortening attention spans of a fickle audience are always a huge challenge!
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        Nov 18 2011: I have to believe that if the work is good, and speaks to them, people will pay attention for as long as it takes....
        • Nov 18 2011: I agree. I used to think I had ADD, but then I realized it was due to the strong feeling of not working on something that was worthwhile. Working on a project that I'm passionate about gives me clarity and focus like nothing else. I think that our lack of attention span comes down to a sort of subconscious cry for help-- "why am I doing this, what else could I be doing to make best use of my time?" These days, there's so much meaningless crap floating around that we have to wade through, but if we do we can do incredible work.
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      Nov 18 2011: Well, I'd say the first thing we do is start thinking about how we might reform visual culture to deal with this attention span issue. Just like the slow-food movement gained traction, I think we'll have a lot of folks advocating for a deeper experience with their media. How do we control the flood? And how will we deduce that screens are just plain addictive!
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        Nov 18 2011: That's ironic, I just went to my first slow-food event two days ago... But I think it's making an even greater push towards getting away with friends to places where cell signals and internet aren't an option. We've come to the point (when I say we, I mean I) have a lot of trouble with controlling our intake valve on communication and content.
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          Nov 18 2011: I have the same trouble with that valve. I think many of us do. I think we need to be educated, sort of like,

          don't drink forty glasses of wine or you'll be sick
          or
          don't touch that electric burner
          or
          don't look at a screen for 14 hours a day and expect when you close you're eyes as you try to go to bed that you won't dream of electric youtube sheep.
        • Nov 18 2011: I couldn't agree more. Cultural habits - via training and practice- should be established. (They are, to some degree, in early schools, but as those classrooms integrate screens more and more, those places are also overrun with media/high volume streams.)
          I really appreciate Lars' comment re: expectations about quality of life. When people complain about not having enough time to do "things" or connect in a 'real way' I think they could honestly evaluate their 'screen time' and change some basic and key things about their lives.
      • Nov 18 2011: Good question re: attention span. There is a great book "Proust and the Squid" - a treatise on the reading brain -- which asks much the same and likens this point in history to the transition from an oral culture to a literate one, chronicling Socrates cautions about the demise of analytical thinking. Sound familiar?
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          Nov 18 2011: I am truly terrified when I read literally anything from the 18th or 19th century. The level of literacy and deduction, though not shared by a majority of people at the time, is stunning when compared with what seems to be the idea innovators and commentators in our age — with exceptions of course.

          But, might we be a much more creative, if less literate, age? I'd wager yes. How do we raise both bars...
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      Nov 18 2011: It starts by telling us that we're not alone. It inspires us to do. And it connects us.
    • Nov 18 2011: I'm not sure if this evokes empathy but I like to ask people to think about all the material things that they have in their life. This allows one to analyze what they've accomplished or obtained and gives a sense of self worth. Then I pose the tougher question, how did you get to where you are right now and achieve these "things". Was it hard work? Was it luck? Ultimately what we "have" in our lives is the product of two things: hard work and our environment. Can you guess the ratio of which holds more importance?

      Over 99% percent of what we have is the result of our environment, not how hard we work. The difference between you, me, and a talented street vendor in Haiti is the location and families we were born into, not that a given party works harder.. But then again, I could be wrong. Please feel free to disagree or debate!
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        Nov 18 2011: Hi Augie, I like your thinking here, and I suspect you're on point. Question though, where do you get that 99% figure? From any study in particular? Curious...
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    Nov 18 2011: Did everyone see the show that was done for the Millenium? It went all around the world and included all sorts of performances. It was unique in so many ways. One, the world was united in presenting itself country/region by country/region. Two it showcased the diversity of our artistic expression.

    As to my previous comment, while the world is unified in one way, it is diverse in others. Art is defined by different cultures and they bring their own sets of rules and definitions. So it can be and can't be easy. While many diverse nations embrace the "American Idol" concept (even in Afghanistan), at the same time, there are cultural purists who see it as a reflection of the "Americanisation" of the globe. Now it opens a whole 'nother discussion.

    Just rambling. :)
  • Nov 18 2011: I tend to think that human answer to these type of challenges will evolve when faced with common, specific goals, that will actually demand from people of different cultures to trim off differences and find common codes, values and attitudes, which is to me the basis for empathy.

    Would you agree that technology should resemble actual personal dialogue, maybe provide some sort of virtual 'body language'?
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      Nov 18 2011: Exequiel, I want to hear more about this virtual body language. I do think that very effective new technologies are often described as "organic" in terms of interface, use, etc., which is no accident.
  • Nov 18 2011: hey!

    i'm into an artistic research trying to build a bridge between a theater show and some flash-mobs. my goal is to find my own approach to a theater stage. and also the my own meaning of art... and also to re-unite people using their breath by dancing together. the show and the flash-mobs can interact through internet. images of the flash-mobs can be seen during the show, where people are invited to attend the next flashmob. and people attending the flashmob are invited to attend the show.

    my goal is to create moments of human unison on breath through the virtual: internet and a stage...

    here is a video of my flash-mob project:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8kD3D6HX3Nw

    my utopia is that my choreography would be danced around the world. and maybe one day, male a performance with skype in which many parts of the world are dancing the choreography at the same moment, live...

    do you think that ca n increase empathy across cultural and geographic distances?
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    Nov 18 2011: There was a story published in the Darwin Awards (I think... I'm checking on that) about missionaries who dropped photographs of themselves in an area frequented by the group of people that they wanted to visit. The people found the pictures and studied them. When the missionaries showed up the people killed them.

    It was an exercise in cross-cultural understanding that failed miserably.

    While the missionaries wanted to announce the arrival of Caucasians to the area, and build rapport with the locals, the locals interpreted the pictures of being from the gods as a warning against these ghosts.
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    Nov 18 2011: The question might be, does technological interfacing diminish empathy? According to research at UM empathy rates in college students are on the decline, perhaps because of increasing reliance on technology for interpersonal relationships. Konrath, S., O'Brien, E., & Hsing, C. (2011). Changes in dispositional empathy in American college students over time: A meta-analysis. Personality and Social Psychology Review, 15, 180-198. [ PDF | PubMed ]
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      Nov 18 2011: Good point.
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      Nov 18 2011: Empathy is at the heart of storytelling, and nothing can give a story more access than technology. The more people hear a story, through media and art, the more empathy has an opportunity to grow.
      • Nov 18 2011: Empathy is at the heart of storytelling -- great point. Although I would argue it's the feeling, not the hearing that matters, and perhaps deeper still, to personal reflection where the heart of real change exists.

        To the creative then "move us!" Not just to anger, which is cheap and easy to come by, but to serious reflection.
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          Nov 18 2011: Yes, it takes talent and skill for an artist to "move us!" It's about invoking feelings of empathy and then creating an environment for participation. There have been cognitive behavioral studies about the effectiveness of media in social change movements when you can invoke empathy in an audience and then provide opportunities for people to go out and make that change. Participant Media's (An Inconvenient Truth, Food Inc, Waiting for Superman Jeff Skoll's production company) strategy is to create movies that invoke empathy and then give audiences action points on how they can contribute and make a real impact.
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        Nov 18 2011: However, if we learn how to experience empathy predominantly through technology, then I suspect we will need the technology to have the experience. One could argue that's happened already with TV and movies - how many of us can readily experience empathy with a fictional character in a movie, but put us in the same or similar situation in real-life and we have a very different empathic reaction, or none at all.
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      Nov 18 2011: No question that this technology in this regard is a very sharp double edged sword. However, I think like most technologies, new types of interface can be leveraged for good and bad. We as a society also need to become better at managing these interfaces in our own lives, AND how we educate young folks in this regard. On the whole, I think new technologies offer us the best chance yet to feel what it is to be outside our own shoes.
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      Nov 18 2011: I'm finding more and more technology is being used to facilitate face to face meetings. Dialogues that are begun on line often translate to lunches, or meetings at conference. While platforms like meet-up are allowing people with common interests to connect.
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        Nov 18 2011: Love this point. I find it harder and harder to talk and meet with good friends, because I find myself conversing with so many new people. Of these new people I meet, many remain acquantainces, yet some connections grow and become integral new friendships and collaborations. I still haven't figured out how to not feel a little guilty talking with folks abroad and having the defacto mode of communication be in my native language, English.
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          Nov 18 2011: I think we're getting to the point where group meetings are the only way to stay in touch (on any sort of regular basis) with our large social circles. Not to say we're going to see the end of one on one dialogue but those times are going to be extremely protected/limited.

          And it's also becoming more and more common to have close relationships where conversation may not be on a weekly basis. We're redefining what close relationships look like based on time restraints.
    • Nov 18 2011: Good point, considering that technology's relevance in communication grows with distance. With a fellow college student, a technical interface will mostly get in the way of empathy; yet with someone in another continent, it does the opposite.
  • Nov 18 2011: With new media technology, we are able to increase interactivity with each other. How does that impact your art?
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      Nov 18 2011: Well, live events are very interactive in the way I imagine them. That's why everyone shows up — screen watching is quite passive, but live performance, done right is inherently interactive in unspeakable, magical ways. Now, I'm also a technophile, so to give you one example.

      You walk into a giant room, and there's a giant panda wearing ipads on his paws waving at your from afar. When he waves, a voice over instructs you how to approach him, and place your fingers on both his iPaws, just so. From that point on, you follow the panda as he guides you through an audio visual experience — with you triggering data visualizations that you see on an array over Mr. Panda's shoulders that complement additional voice overs. You learn the system as you go. You are guided by a performer. You have some agency over your interaction with the media. Your body is engaged physically. Interactivity is easier one on one, I have to say...
  • Nov 18 2011: What do you think is the perfect combination of media technology to produce and increase empathy with the end goal of discussion and intake of perspective? For example, is a photograph enough to create empathy or does that photograph need to be combined with music, words and other forms of technology to produce high empathy?
  • Nov 18 2011: I think putting people in contact with others around the world makes a huge difference, if you can actually have a conversation, be it text, audio or both via video link then you will get educated very quickly on exactly how different some countries are, be it economically, socially, etc.
    If you have one person in a room full of cds, clothes, and gadgets who is talking to someone in a country that has the bare essentials, and sometimes less, than the former person is very quickly going to appreciate what they have, and perhaps re-evaluate why they got it and what use it is. (or perhaps even feel guilt for such a vast overuse of resources that are relatively under-used)

    So I think we need to go beyond pictures and statements, and let interaction and education via one to one, or group discussons provoke understanding and empathy,which will hopefully lead to action to improve the existing vast imbalances that exist.
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      Nov 18 2011: Amen (though I'm not religious). Great comment, and it raises a big question for me. How does language fit into the equation? Newspapers during the industrial revolution had the effect of systematizing English (and other languages). Where previously there were rather significant differences in dialect, these quickly evaporated? What will these new avenues of communication you mention mean for our lingua franca (itself an oxymoron at this point)?
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      Nov 18 2011: I also love this comment. I think instead of "going beyond" pictures and statements, we should encourage building a bridge between creating art and sharing values and education across cultures. Accessible open platforms for people in different countries who want to collaborate on creative projects?
  • Nov 18 2011: music is everything
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      Nov 18 2011: how do we get everyone to listen to the same thing, at the same time... even for a minute?
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        Nov 18 2011: I think that was done brilliantly with Pangea Day. Live streaming of content to a community who regardless of their own time zones are committed to watching/listening
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        Nov 18 2011: Hello Lars, How are you doing! Fellow from Egypt.

        So you're a co-founder of agency, I wanted to make an online monthly magazine for campus in my university, Ain Shams University in Cairo, how can I advertise in the right direction knowing that i have no budget. I need ideas.


        Thanks.
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        Nov 18 2011: With live stream you can't - yet, it's possible -. but you can read everyone's question and answer them later by sending them inbox messages. don't you think it's a better way?
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    Nov 18 2011: I think we've seen it with platforms like OpenIDEO and Pepsi Refresh. It's about creating a framework people with different perspectives and skills can collaborate in. Any other great uses of crowd-sourced innovation on a large, cross-cultural scale that really stand out?
  • Nov 18 2011: It's often said that the physical mechanisms of the technologies (be it code or the physical storage mediums) themselves mediate the kinds of relationships that become possible through them. Have you found this in your work?
  • Nov 18 2011: testing hello
  • Nov 18 2011: test