Wild Empathy

Wild Empathy
immersive media research project, 2018-19

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 below ground 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 research is based on the team’s recordings of old trees in a forest location on Vancouver Island, BC. Read more

Research team:
Julie Andreyev, principle investigator, Emily Carr University
Dr Maria Lantin, director of the Basically Good Media Lab, ECU
Simon Overstall, composer and computational aesthetics
Alex Hass, research associate, Basically Good Media Lab, ECU
Dr Deirdre Brink, independent biologist
Damien Gillis, independent documentary filmmaker
Dr David Baar, independent computer scientist
Lorenz Jimenez, independent 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: 
SSHRC Institutional Exchange Grant, ECU, 2019
Gillespie Design Research Grant, ECU, 2019, 2018
Basically Good Media Lab, and the Mixed Reality Lab, ECU