TED Conversations

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: 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.

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