We describe the design of Queerskins: ARK, a virtual reality (VR) narrative artwork featuring pre-recorded 3D volumetrically rendered human dancers portraying same-sex lovers. Rather than adopt a more conventional perspective-taking, we created novel opportunities for connection and intimacy by utilizing a unique movement based language and a magical-realist aesthetic. The design process was aided by a series of prototyping exercises with live participants. In the final test, we found that all participants experienced positive emotions in the scenes where the gay couple appeared and felt more connected to the men, as measured by the inclusion of other in self (IOS) scale, than to the other main character (mother) who was presented in a more realistic way. Reviewing the history of empathy and relevant neuropsychological literature, we offer possible mechanisms for these findings and argue for broadening research into the ways aesthetics and movement could be used to promote empathy in VR.
We love thinking. We love sharing our ideas and design process so others can learn from our discoveries and mistakes. This takes a lot of time, and if you aren’t in academia, it doesn’t count for much on a CV, but we hope more artists make their creative processes public.
DM me for a copy. Also, yes, I am available for public talks at conferences or for guest lecturing spots at universities. I am a lively and out of the box thinker/speaker and I love doing it.