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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

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.

10Dec

Art and Activism

we are nature

Brandalism Project
Just before the start of the COP21, 600 anti-advertisement posters have been placed in public outdoor spaces through the streets of Paris. Over 80 artists, from 19 different countries were involved. Joe Elan from Brandalism: “By sponsoring the climate talks, major polluters such as Air France an GD-Suez-Engine can promote themselves as part of the solution – when actually they are part of the problem.” It all started in 2008 when two friends started to reclaim billboards in London. They were tired of the visual pollution that stems from large public advertisements.
The Brandalism artwork illustrates the connection among advertising, marketing, consumerism, fossil-fuel dependency and climate change.

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Where the Tides Ebb and Flow

Land art project “Where the Tides Ebb and Flow” is all about raising awareness for global sea level rise. The artwork is located at Montsouris Park in Paris. The artist Edro Mazorati placed 30 sculptures of blue men in water that appear slowly rise up and then sink down again. The artwork was first introduced in 2008 at an Art Festival in the Netherlands. Since 2008 it has been moved to raise awareness all over the world.

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Empty shoes
A sea of footwear, from high heels and flip flops to sportive sneakers and outdoor boots standing at the Place de la Republic in Paris. With the state of emergency making it impossible to demonstrate, the protesters used the empty shoes as a personification. More than 20.000 shoes were placed. This made a strong impact on the worldwide audience (picked up by many broadcasters), maybe even more than if there had been protesters.

parisshoes.jpg__800x600_q85_crop_subsampling-2_upscale Our feet are what roots us to the planet earth, so the shoe is an beautiful metonym for sustainable consciousness

Artist brings icebergs to Paris
Olafur Eliasson brought 12 large blocks, from the Nuuk fjord in Greenland to the middle of Paris. By displacing the ice, the obvious result is that it melts. The huge blocks are a visual reminder of the change climate happening now, at this instant… and that we are creating irregularities on earth. The artist said: “The ice we are going to put in Paris is a tenth of what melts in a second in the Greenland summer.

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1 Heart 1 Tree
This artwork is transforming the Eiffel tower into virtual forests with light. People all over the world, will have the opportunity to give life to a virtual tree. After downloading the smart phone app, you can participate in this collective project. You place a finger on the sensor to record the rhythm of your heartbeat; which grows a unique tree on the Eiffel tower. For each virtual tree, a real tree will be planted in one of the 7 reforestation programs over the world.

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These are just a few of the inspiring and creative art projects, presented in Paris.
Want to see more art projects, join them or make one here

Art activism is just one of the many ways to let people look at the cause with new eyes. But it’s also important to taking up real space and real time, attaching the cause to real faces and real voices who care enough about the cause to go out there in a public protest.

Art may often used as a medium to express extreme impulse into simplistic flares, but I believe it intended to have a small part in a beneficial purpose. Considering, those ghostly shoes and billboards are not an individual wave. They have a collective spirit and that unity; the small suggestion, hidden within each, that is what can work towards collective goals. Protests are not persuasive themselves but they invite persuasion, they invite change.

26Nov

Together, we create a circular future

If we continue like this, by the end of the century a global warming of 2 to 4 degrees Celsius will be inevitable. This comes with huge effects for our livelihoods. Imagine the effects only for the Netherlands, which lays for a large part 5 or more metres below sea level. We are the first generation who can experience the climate change, and we are the generation who can do something about it before it’s too late.

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From an economy on fossil fuels we need a transition to an economy that runs on 100% sustainable energy. Thankfully, many people are aware and working towards a more sustainable future. We have to experiment and create new solutions. The Netherlands is about to become the first circular hotspot, with many experiments to close the loop and have as minimal impact as possible. The Dutch have proven ability to overcome challenges in the areas of water and agriculture. Last week Vitens won the Circular Icon Price 2015, as a great example for innovation and collaboration. The prize is yearly awarded to innovating projects that demonstrated how Circular Netherlands can look like. The Vitens Project shows how waste streams coming from the water purification, can be used as valuable raw materials. The use of these residues helps the sustainability of the water sector and the agricultural sector with great benefits for the quality of water, farmer and also for the water company.

Already ten years ago DUTCH PICTURE INDUSTRY felt the need to show what is already practiced as sustainable solutions. In our TV series Going South cycling the Americas we inspired our audience with eye opening ideas and simple yet remarkable initiatives taken by businesses, non-governmental organizations and individuals in our society. Going South, meets several categories of sustainability, from condom trees and ceramic water purification to green parenting and a rent-a-bike-plan in Mexico city. It’s all in the series. Take a look at the projects at the website

Within our productions we give the solutions to climate change a face. Who are the hard working people? What do they do, where do they believe in? We keep spreading awareness and keep the motivated people close to our productions. We believe global warming can be stopped by all of us, together. Now let’s go and safe the world!

Today is Green Screen Day on IDFA. Thomas Rau, architect and innovation specialist will give a free lecture. See the full program here.

November 29th is the World Climate March. This year it’s going to be huge! We encourage everyone around the world to join and raise his or her voices!

Do you have any tips to make this world more circular? Please share your thoughts in the comments!

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