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  • Empathy for the Devil: inside the headset with Norman Bates

Dare, Eleanor, 2019, Conference or Workshop, Empathy for the Devil: inside the headset with Norman Bates at Virtual Realities and Alterities, London, 9-May 2019.

Abstract or Description:

VR has been subject to extensive hype, driven as Suchman (2016), Halpern (2015) and Rose
(2018) argue, by a virulent form of techno-determinism associated with the trajectory of VR,
from its military and computer science origins to its current prominence as a medium for
non-fiction.
In recent years, much has been claimed for Virtual Reality’s empathetic power, indeed, Chris
Milk’s term ‘The Empathy Machine’ has become the clarion call for the current VR hype-
cycle. Yet the presumed mechanism of empathy is so often taken for granted, subsumed in
the catch-all term of ‘walking in other’s shoes’, and a notion, in particular, of location, which
is arguably expunged of its sensorial and social complexity. In this configuration, the agency
of VR is merely the ‘agency of perspective’ (Bishop, 2013), making Milk’s assertions
hyperbolic: ‘So, it's a machine’ he states ‘but through this machine we become more
compassionate, we become more empathetic, and we become more connected. And
ultimately, we become more human.’ (Milk, 2015). But, as Rose asks, is there any truth
behind the claims for VR’s exceptional empathic potential, or are we in fact, subject to a
form of techno-determinism operating within a military and computer science tradition,
which has little if any real claims towards a teleology of altruistic care for others? Might we
argue, in fact, that VR is above all, a form of surveillant mechanism in the tradition of drones
and CCTV cameras?
Drawing upon Zyksinka (2017), Halpern (2015), Rose (2018) and Wells (2009), as well as
Truffault (2017), Bloch (2013) and Hitchcock (2017), this presentation will articulate, by
practice, the tensions embedded in the notion of the Empathy Machine.

Subjects: Creative Arts and Design > W900 Others in Creative Arts and Design > W990 Creative Arts and Design not elsewhere classified
School or Centre: School of Communication
Date Deposited: 01 May 2019 15:48
Last Modified: 01 May 2019 15:48
URI: http://researchonline.rca.ac.uk/id/eprint/3897

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