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01Jul

Life Cycle Stories

There are few things that possess such duality in our everyday lives as food: it is a necessity, it is a luxury, there is an overabundance of it, there is a lack of it, it is healthy, it is unhealthy. However, one of the most overlooked aspects of our food is its origins. Questions like where does our food come, how is it made, who produces it, and what impact has it on our environment, are rarely asked or even thought of. Recent years have shown a rise in conscious consumerism and awareness about our meals, however it is still something that is not adapted by many.

This is not the case with Anne Pekelharing. Anne has always been fascinated by food. Since her childhood she has her mind set on food, cooking and creating new dishes. The underlying thought for her has been that food is more than just eating or drinking, it inspires, connects, and drives us forward. From her love for food and desire for adventure Life Cycle Stories was born.

Anne was inspired by the questions we usually do not ask about food. It was essential to approach food as something that has an extensive impact on our everyday lives and our environment rather than something that is always available and possesses limited value. She felt that to understand and witness the journey of our food, it was essential to track it to its origins. However, our meals come in many different forms and from all over the world, so it is imperative to get out and explore the different regions, people, production, traditions, and environment where the food comes from. Life Cycle Stories focuses on sustainable food production and the small, personal stories about the people behind these endeavors.

Life Cycle Stories follows Anne on her journey through Europe, 8 countries in 6 months. It takes courage, discipline, and clear vision to leave your everyday comforts and tasks behind to travel across Europe on your bike. It also takes a special kind of spirit to be concerned enough about a specific problem and acting upon it. This kind of journey does not have to be realized by travelling to distant destinations, it can be achieved by looking up your local food producers. Anne’s adventure is inspirational not only, because she decided to concentrate on different countries in Europe and their specific ways of making food, but also because she is determined to create awareness and shine a light on the issue that is close to her heart. It is about passing on the knowledge that you gained and by doing that having a positive impact on the society and the environment that we live in. Life Cycle Stories is also a story about the people. Inspirational individuals who, like Anne, chose to have a specific mindset when it comes to food. These stories are as much about the people and their culture of producing the food in fair and passionate way. It is an in-depth look of their everyday struggles and successes.

For us Anne and her hosts are an inspiration and we are very much looking forward to the fascinating tales that are Life Cycle Stories. Meanwhile you can follow her adventures on Instagram, Facebook and lifecyclestories.com

14Jun

The Ocean Cleanup

 

If the planet looks blue from our sky, it is only when one’s head is in the water that one becomes aware of reality. The ocean has become a vast garbage can where gyres are accumulating waste at an alarming rate. “Ocean Cleanup”, a revolutionary device created by Boyan Slat aspires to give our Earth a new hope.

The idea

Boyan Slat, the young engineer at the initiative of this project, hopes with his plan “Ocean Cleanup”, to succeed in cleaning the oceans of plastic waste. Originally announced to be in place from 2020, this project should emerge in the coming months.

Called “The Ocean Cleanup”, the ambitious project aims to recover no less than five trillion plastic waste from bottles or bags floating on the surface of the seas. How? Thanks to a system using marine currents to trap waste.

A new system set up in few months

In June 2016, the 22-year-old Dutchman launched his first test in the North Sea. To ensure the viability of the project, the company build a 100-kilometer long barrier of floats and nets in the North Sea off the coast of the Netherlands. But since then, things seem to have accelerated.

At a recent presentation in Utrecht, the Netherlands, Boyan Slat and the engineers with whom he is working, have announced that a new, more efficient system is emerging. The latter indeed replace this unique barrier in the form of a “V” with a fleet of several small systems, much more profitable.

Over the next twelve months, about 30 km of smaller, 2-kilometer-long barriers attached to a 12-kilometer floating anchor should be launched and navigated by sea currents to collect plastic waste on their way.

The Ocean Cleanup Deployment Simulation

An inspiring example

His project was born from a simple sketch drawn on a paper towel. Boyan Slat was then 17 years old. “During a scuba diving on holiday in Greece: under water, I saw more plastic than fish”, he explained. Today, the dream of the young Dutchman, to rid the world’s oceans of plastic, is about to become reality.

Ocean Cleanup is an inspiring example of how we can address the growing problem of water pollution.

We believe that we are all creative people. We share the talent to think of simple but efficient sollutions to the problems that we face today. We have to have dreams to create the impossible. But the example of Boyan shows that we can.

Boyan SLAT – CEO & Founder

DUTCH PICTURE INDUSTRY believes in projects like The Ocean Cleanup, because it inspires people in the way of protecting our planet. Indeed, by minimizing our impact on the Earth, we could offer a better future for the next generations.

As we saw in the previous blog about crowdfunding, the power of people is changing through the evolution of the Internet. New ways of actions are emerging and people can now act from anywhere they are on subjects they care about. At your level you can act for the oceans’ protection by signing the petition: Save our Oceans – End plastic pollution now!

“They didn’t know it was impossible so they did it” – Mark Twain

11May

Crowdfunding: be the change you want to see in the world

If there is a revolution that marks the beginning of the 21st century, then this must be the connectivity with events, issues and persons all over the world. Connected to this connectivity is “participatory” effect.

After introduction, the notion of participatory democracy, notably thanks to the power of social media and online petitions, a new way of financing has blossomed. Individuals are gradually discovering that they can act by themselves for causes that are dear to them, to bring to the world the change they want to see.

Collaborative economics

Crowdfunding allows, through the financial participation of individuals who recognize themselves in a project or who want to support one, to participate in the development of a project that may not have been able to see by traditional financing. Beyond former borders, innovative projects have been created, that stand for innovation and change. Projects that wouldn’t be supported by the normal financial system, are now nourished. Crowdfunding is therefore part of the collaborative economy, since it relies on trust

The buzz is going around that crowdfunding creates new possibilities. But what is the success rate and what makes people participate? First of all there are a lot of different sorts of crowdfunding.

Crowdlending: an innovative way of financing personal projects

For a long time, banks were the only ones able to present an offer of financing. Now individuals can obtain peer to peer lending, whether for a cash need, a desire to travel, for a renovation of a house or a big operation that you are unable to finance yourself.

Small business and crowdfunding

Crowdfunding makes a real difference for small business. It also allows companies to federate around them a community of customers, collaborators and suppliers. Especially because small business should present their business model, product or service to the crowd of individuals to convince them to finance them, crowdfunding makes it possible to carry out a prototype of a new product.

Investors can either receive product or services from the business or they can invest in the business’ capital and receive interests in return. Unlike classical ways of financing, crowdfunding allows investors to choose themselves where their money goes. There is a direct connection between the investor and the entrepreneur. They share an goal. Success of the company.

Crowdfunding plays here the game of proximity through savings that are not only responsible and solidarity, but also transparent and close to investors.

How NGOs find a new way of fundraising 

It now seems quite inevitable for NGOs to take a closer look at these new fundraising techniques if they want to sustain their budgets. First, because the financing through governments’ helps is less and less substantial. Secondly, because the growth of crowdfunding is increasingly orienting the public towards digital financing of projects, humanitarian or otherwise, which will undoubtedly divert it from the traditional physical collections for which it is solicited by the historical NGOs.

Crowdfunding allows the shortening of the circuit between the financer and the project, which reinforces the feeling of transparency and traceability. Indeed, it responds to the emergence of a concept of proximity in which citizens wish to give more meaning to their financial contributions by following their own sensitivities and limiting intermediaries.

To guarantee its independence, Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders), launched in November 2016 a crowdfunding platform, with the aim of collecting 1 million euros in 60 days. Intended for the youngest, between 18 and 35 years old, it invited them to pledge on the platform independance.msf.fr and it offered a range of rewards for all amounts, including a guitar signed by the Muse group.

A platform for each project

Thus, the only term of crowdfunding encompasses many realities. Different platforms have different functions, and even different philosophies. While all have in common to create a relationship between a project and investors, some are more focused on NGOs and individuals, while others represent a lever for future business.

I myself pledged Boyan Slat to support him in his vision to clean this world from the plastic waste that we are surrounding us with. Please share your thoughts on crowdfunding so we can learn from it. I didn’t do it for the pledge. It gave me a feeling of participating in a solution of a better future.

As the banks are giving almost no interest on money on the bank it stimulates me to look for alternative forms of investment. From personal to solar and sustainable project. The future will tell, where I will invest my money in.

Now that it is all possible, leaves us with the question does it reach the bigger audiences. My question to you, did you ever pledge a crowdfunding campaign? Why did you? Because of the cause, the product, the pledges or to support a personal goal. Why did you get involved, please share your experiences so we can learn from it.

At DUTCH PICTURE INDUSTRY, we are aware that if people work together on a common project, they can collectively make things happen and change the world.

24Nov

Triggering Empathy with Virtual Reality Storytelling

“You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view … until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.” – Atticus Finch in Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird

Arousing empathy has almost always been at the core of storytelling. In Virtual Reality (VR), storytellers have found a new tool with which to give viewers an even closer physical sensation of another person’s lived experience. In other words, VR has the possibility of most fully realizing a second person experience of a story: YOU transform into a character in the film, experiencing their visual and auditory sensations in 360 degrees. Director Chris Milk has dubbed virtual reality films “empathy machines” that move and stimulate viewers to social action more than any other media to date. The art world has been exploring this claim in performance pieces and virtual reality films. Meanwhile, scientific researchers are investigating the quantitative and qualitative evidence for and against the empathetic effects of virtual reality. Critics remain skeptical of virtual reality, citing a confusion between immersion and empathy.

Much furor and fuss is being made over virtual reality – but the energy and attitude towards VR is overwhelmingly positive. The most compelling consequence of these studies and experiments is the multi-layered conversation which reveals that VR is no simple subject. Virtual reality is, after all, a part of the complex chain and tradition of storytelling that dates to the beginning of culture and humanity.

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FILM AND PERFORMANCE ART 

Along with director Gabo Arora, Chris Milk and VRSE production company joined the United Nations in making the 2015 VR film Clouds Over Sidra, which tells the story of a young Syrian girl living in a refugee camp in Jordan. The film debuted in January 2015 at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, making a strong emotional impact upon the audience. Based on the response to the film in Davos and elsewhere (at a fundraiser in Kuwait, the film raised 3.8 billion USD, nearly double the amount anticipated), Milk believes that VR films can change the world, connecting human beings and altering their perceptions of one another. In a March 2015 TED talk, Milk explains, “So, it’s a machine, but through this machine we become more compassionate, become more empathetic, and we become more connected, and ultimately we become more human.”

In The Machine to Be Another, an experiment run by the art collective BeAnotherLab, VR is the foundation of a live performance piece in which participants virtually exchange bodies with the performer, who mimics their movements.  The purpose of the experiment is to better understand the Self by embodying the narrative of the Other. The collective collaborates with neurologists and neuroscientists. They aim to measure empathy in their future projects.

SCIENTIFIC EVIDENCE

Psychologists are also examining how effective VR is at generating empathy in viewers. The Virtual Human Interaction Lab at Stanford Lab investigates how test subjects change their behavior after experiencing specific scenarios in virtual reality environments. Lab Manager Shawnee Baughman explains in a February 18, 2016 interview how they have found that virtual reality has the potential to positively influence test subjects’ behavior after experiencing staged scenarios in a VR environment.

In one scenario, participants became Superman and save a child lost in large city. The point of the experiment is not that the participants save the child in the VR scenario, however, but how they were more proactive and helpful to other people in their real lives in the period immediately following the video. The same principle follows with another scenario in which one test group chops down a tree in VR with a haptic device that mimics a saw, and another group chops the tree but without the haptic device. The group that uses the haptic device to “chop” the tree used 20% less paper immediately following the event in a staged, real-life water spill.

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VR is not only positive in the context of its impact on human relations, but also between humanity and the earth. Jeremy Bailensen, Associate Professor of Communication at Stanford University, shares this positive outlook: “With concepts like climate change or deforestation or even pollution, we can use virtual reality to make the relationship between human behavior and the impact on the environment less abstract and more concrete.” By immersing viewers in environments in danger of destruction or industrialization, perhaps the viewer will better appreciate the need to preserve the environment and our resources. Another example we might consider is an audience experiencing the world in VR from the perspective of an animal in the endangered environment – the hope is that by sharing an intimate perspective with the animal in nature, that the viewer will develop a greater capacity to empathize with the natural world.

NUANCED SKEPTICISM

The nuances of virtual reality come to the fore in myriad questions that surround it. In his New York Times article “Want to Know What Virtual Reality Might Become? Look to the Past,” Steven Johnson suggests, rather than Milk’s all-encompassing view of virtual reality films as “empathy machines,” that virtual reality offers the possibility of different kinds of empathy: “perceptual empathy” or “sensory immersion.” It is true that empathy is aroused by our recognition of facial muscle movements, as Johnson points out, so that if we as the viewer cannot see the face of the protagonist whom we are inhabiting, then we lose this traditional key to empathizing with this person’s experience. However, we gain a sensory and immersive experience of the character whose point-of-view we inhabit. Not seeing the person’s face might make a viewer more open as their preconceived notions based on the character’s appearance will not be provoked. Even the omission of the inhabited character’s face can be played with via the use of a mirror that could “reveal” the physical identity of the character after the viewer has been immersed in their story. Additionally, we do not lose the ability to see the faces of the other people featured in the film.

Other critics, such as adjunct professor Sam Gregory of Harvard University, do not believe that virtual reality necessarily equates to empathy. Jennifer Alsever quotes Gregory: “It’s confusing immersion for empathy.” Viewers might become distanced from the subject of the VR film if it’s too violent, and virtual reality’s potential for motivating social action might instead corrode into “poverty tourism.” Meanwhile, Adi Robertson wonders in her article “The UN wants to see how far VR empathy will go” whether VR’s apparently superior effectiveness in motivating social action results not necessarily from VR’s inherent qualities, but its novelty.

Meanwhile, in her article “The Limits of Virtual Reality: Debugging the Empathy Machine,” Ainsley Sutherland points out, “This is the central critique of VR as a successful medium for ‘increasing’ empathy: that it cannot reproduce internal states, only the physical conditions that might influence that.” In response to Sutherland’s criticism, I wonder if she makes an inaccurate division between internal and external states, devaluing the impact of physical conditions on the emotions. If we can experience the physical conditions of living in a refugee camp, would the very conditions not move us, knowing that the young Syrian protagonist is living what is but a simulation for us the viewers? Additionally, the physical conditions elicited by VR can make the story lines and relationships between people within a film more intimate because we physically have the impression of being beside them, and are thus psychologically more able to identify and empathize with them. Physical and emotional conditions are more intimately connected than we might realize.

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COMPLEX POSITIVE POTENTIAL

Despite dimming the potential of virtual reality to increase empathy, such criticisms shed insight on VR’s complexity and further substantiates its potential to effect change. That VR entails a consideration of multi-layered technical, scientific, aesthetic, and theoretical perspectives evidences the vastness of VR filmmaking’s uncharted territory. Can theatre, literature, or cinema more effectively stimulate empathy in an audience for a subject’s internal state than virtual reality? To isolate virtual reality from the tradition of storytelling is simply false. VR is a continuation of the tradition of storytelling, but in a new medium. And as virtual reality filmmakers develop new tools and refine their skills, virtual reality might well evoke the same complexity of inner states as poetry. At DUTCH PICTURE INDUSTRY and VR EXPLORERS, we embrace the newest innovations and are eager to explore the possibilities of virtual reality and its potential to effect positive change in the world. We look forward to evoking empathy in our viewers for the issues and stories that we tell in our films.

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