Walking in someone else’s shoes: Creating empathy in the practice of immersive film

Sarah Jones, Stephen Dawkins

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

The rise and accessibility of virtual reality and 360-degree film has led to the assertion that it is an empathy generator (De La Peña, N., P. Well, J. Liobera, E. Giannopoulos, A. Pomés, B. Spanlang, D. Friedman, M. Sanchez- Vives, and M. Slater. 2010. “Immersive Journalism: Immersive Virtual Reality for the First-Person Experience of News.” Presence: Teleoperators and Virtual Environments 19 (4): 291–301. http://hdl.handle.net/2445/52803; Milk 2015. How Virtual Reality can Create the Ultimate Empathy Machine. Accessed February 9, 2018. https://www.ted.com/talks/chris_milk_how_virtual_reality_can_create_the_ultimate_empathy_machine) allowing for a greater level of immersion on the part of the ‘experiencer’ than traditional film enables (Jones, S. 2017. “Disrupting the Narrative: Immersive Journalism in Virtual Reality.” Journal of Media Practice 18 (2–3): 171–185). Films created for a user to ‘walk in someone else’s shoes’ have been used to explore ideas including mobility (StoryUp 2016), health conditions (Gauntlett 2015) and immigration (Milk 2015. How Virtual Reality can Create the Ultimate Empathy Machine. Accessed February 9, 2018. https://www.ted.com/talks/chris_milk_how_virtual_reality_can_create_the_ultimate_empathy_machine) and are increasingly being used by third-sector organisations and the United Nations because of their power as a tool to help understanding of social issues.

This paper seeks to critically investigate the concept of empathy within film practice and explore how emerging technologies potentially enable a significant shift in the audience’s experience of a subject. Through a study of immersive films and interviews with leading creators, the notions of empathy-driven practice are interrogated and critiqued. The study provides conditions for future immersive filmic practice that, through using non-directed narratives, involves the creation of a space in which experiencers of immersive experiences can gain an increased awareness of space, place and social relations which can lead to positive societal change without requiring the need for empathy.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)298-312
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Media Practice and Education
Volume19
Issue number3
Early online date24 Jan 2019
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 24 Jan 2019

Keywords

  • Empathy
  • immersion
  • virtual reality
  • film
  • presence
  • 360-degree film

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Visual Arts and Performing Arts

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