Wild Empathy

Wild Empathy, VR research project, 2018

Human-produced climate change, development, and resource extraction have dramatically affected the forests in BC, specifically old-growth forests. Over the last decade, because of the reduction of these ecosystems, the province’s forests no longer function as carbon sinks, they are now carbon sources. Old growth trees play a crucial part in these forest ecologies. They take in vast amounts of carbon from the atmosphere because of their growth rate that accelerates with age; they provide rich sites of biodiversity unlike newer trees; and they function as crucial hubs of networked mycorrhizal activity in the forest. The Sierra Club of BC has stated that unless there is a significant change in the practice of old-growth deforestation, there will be an ecological and economic collapse in the province.

The purpose of Wild Empathy is to explore how new methods for aesthetic production, using immersive media in a VR prototype, can function to generate human empathy for, and ecological behaviors towards, local old growth trees and forest ecologies. The Wild Empathy experiments are based on the team’s recordings of old growth trees in a local forest. Read more

Research team:
Julie Andreyev, principle investigator
Dr Maria Lantin, director of the Basically Good Media Lab, ECU
Simon Overstall, composer and computational aesthetics
Dr Deirdre Brink, biologist
Damien Gillis, documentary filmmaker
Dr David Baar, computer scientist
Lorenz Jimenez, photographer and videographer
Sean Arden, research technician in the Mixed Reality Lab, ECU
Mana Hairichian Saei, research assistant, ECU
Edward Madojemu, research assistant, ECU
Michael Fowler, research assistant, ECU

Supported by: 
Gillespie Design Research Grant, Emily Carr University, 2018