ACMI Conversations ACMI Presents

Empathy Machines

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With each technological advancement, from early documentaries to social issue games and immersive VR, we've heard the promise of being able to step into alternate perspectives, to feel and share and experience a more complex type of understanding. But are these supposed "empathy machines" distancing us from true empathy and closer to voyeurism?

In this talk we'll interrogate the ethics, assumptions and privileges associated with technological storytelling.

Hosted by Santilla Chingaipe with Dr Fincina Hopgood, Brett Leavy and Amani Naseem.

About the speakers

Santilla Chingaipe is an award-winning journalist and documentary filmmaker. She spent nearly a decade working for SBS World News which saw her report from across Africa and interview some of the continent's most prominent leaders. Her work explores cultural identities, contemporary migration and politics. Last year she presented a one-off documentary for SBS, Date My Race. Santilla is currently directing and writing documentary on the complexities of Australia’s South Sudanese community. Her latest film, Black As Me, is a short documentary exploring the perception of beauty and race in Australia. She writes regularly for The Saturday Paper.

Dr Fincina Hopgood is a Lecturer in Screen Studies at the University of New England, where she teaches the units Australian Screens and Human Rights on Screen. Fincina’s interest in empathy stems from her research expertise investigating portrayals of mental illness and suicide in film and television. She has written articles for The Age and The Conversation, as well as book chapters and journal articles, and she has been interviewed on ABC Radio and 3RRR several times. Fincina’s research has been supported by the ARC Centre of Excellence for the History of Emotions, the Melbourne Social Equity Institute, the Disability Research Initiative, and the Human Rights and Animal Ethics Research Network at the University of Melbourne. Fincina works in collaboration with the mental health community to explore the potential of screen media to foster empathy and to ensure this research is informed by lived experience.

Brett Leavy calls himself a ‘Virtual Heritage Jedi’. A descendant of the Kooma people of Western Queensland, Brett has spent his career dedicated to seeking innovative ways to preserve and present Indigenous arts, language and culture using new technologies. Inspired by the possibilities of virtual reality (VR) and immersive gaming, Brett created Virtual Songlines.  Virtual Songlines is a tool to developing, recording, preserving and presenting the knowledge passed down by the Traditional Owners. It is one of Brett’s many projects and will be highlighted in this talk. Through the use of VR Brett seeks to recreate the Australia of his ancestors and embed the culture, language, artefacts and community into 3D VR experiences. By day he is the Manager of the National Indigenous Radio Service that connects over 180 community radio stations.

Amani Naseem is an artist from the Maldives living on Wururundjeri land. She makes games and interactive work for public play. She is one of the founders of w00t Copenhagen Play Festival, she also works in the collectives PlayReactive (AU) and Copenhagen Games Collective (DK). She is currently working on a PhD and thinking about what it means to make play in occupied and high risk environments.