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Empathy

The 3rd Global Meeting of the Empathy Project
Call for Participation 2016

Thursday 14th July – Saturday 16th July 2016
Mansfield College, Oxford

Empathy, the will to understand or to attempt to understand others by imagining what it might feel like to be them – how it might feel to experience the world from inside their skin, underpins much of our lives. It is present in the ways in which people relate to and care for one another within families and in other groups, both large and small – from global to local level. It is present, also, in the ways in which we communicate with one another through literature, art, film, advertising and digital media. Many professions – from nursing, counselling psychotherapy, social care and medicine, to teaching, product design, architecture, advertising and stand-up comedy, depend at least partly, on empathic skill.

Though some people form the idea that empathy has something to do with having prior knowledge of and perhaps experiencing ‘fellow feeling’ with or even liking those towards whom empathy is exercised, we can empathise just as well, both with whom we have had no contact and with those we do not like. We can empathise with others whose lives are very different from our own, and because empathy involves the use of the imagination, we can empathise with people in experiences that we are unlikely ever to have, even in experiences that we will never be able to have. Though empathy is often viewed through ‘rose-coloured spectacles’, as if it is always a good thing, some would argue that it can be put to bad uses, for example by bullies and torturers, who use empathic skill to work out how best to harm their victims. Some uses of empathy – for example, by spin doctors, PR advisors and those whose work involves advertising products rather than people, may be viewed by one set of people in a a positive way, while others view exactly the same use of empathy more negatively.

Some people believe that everyone who is aware of others has the ability to empathise, at least to some extent; others disagree, believing, rather, that some individuals, including those who may be referred to as ‘psychopathic’, have no ability to empathise. Others again believe that empathy is both a gift and a skill that can be developed. They note that while some people seem to empathise naturally, others don’t, and argue that given the right experiences, most people can develop empathic ability.

Like Empathy 1 and Empathy 2, Empathy 3 will provide a space in which academics as well as practitioners and professionals for whom empathy is centrally important, can explore the part this most important attribute plays in human life. It will provide a place for reflection on empathy’s significance for practitioners in health and social care; education; architecture and town planning; politics; the police; advertising; media of all kinds; the news industry in all its forms; film, theatre, and the fine arts, including the work of artists and those who work in museums and art galleries.

Between them IDNet’s first two Global Meetings on Empathy included philosophical, ethical, neurological and psychological discussions of the meaning and origins of empathy, as well as presentations about, for example, empathy in literature, theatre, the visual arts, and cinema; about empathy in news, social media and online communication; about the ways in which considerations of empathy influence character and plot development in TV drama, and about the development of empathy in children and in professionals, including social workers and health care staff.

For Empathy 3, abstracts are invited for individual contributions and for symposia of three closely related papers that address the place that empathy has to play in any area of human life, including:

  • Empathy in storytelling of all kinds, including novels and short stories, theatre; narrative and documentary film, and digital storytelling.
  • Empathy in the creative and performance arts.
  • The communications industry, including print and digital journalism; advertising; public relations, television and radio.
  • The place of empathy in education; politics; business; health and social care; the law; policing and the armed forces.
  • Explorations of empathy in academic research, by, for example, psychologists, philosophers, theologians, nurses, counsellors, teachers and literary theorists.

Abstracts might, for example, address questions such as:

  • Is empathy a natural ability, or a learned and practiced skill?
  • What is the relationship between empathy and sympathy?
  • Is empathy always a good thing? In other words, do those who have empathic skill necessarily display helpful, caring and considerate behaviour towards others?
  • How does empathy arise in human beings?
  • What, if anything, can neuroscience tell us about empathy; its development and its absence?
  • What role does empathy play in education? Could an un-empathic person be a successful teacher?
  • What part does empathy play in the narrative arts of literature, theatre and film?
  • Does social networking increase or diminish empathy in those who use it?
  • How does empathy make itself known in the work of architects, designers, advertisers, lawyers, theologians, journalists, town planners; business people; TV presenters; politicians; prison officers; doctors; nurses; therapists; school teachers; priests; artists; entertainers of all kinds?
  • What part, if any, does empathy play in the creation of digital media and perhaps, especially, in the creation of computer games?
  • Is empathy present, to any degree, in animals?
  • Is bullying a result of an empathy deficit and do those who engage in torture necessarily lack empathy? Or does well developed empathic ability informs bullying behaviour and allow the best torturers to decide how best to hurt and terrorise their victims?
  • How important for ethical living, is the ability to empathise?

In addition to the presentation of conference papers, we welcome the submission of short workshops and accounts of professional practice, as well as other contributions, including performances, films and digital stories. It particularly welcomes the submission of pre-formed panel proposals.

Call for Cross-Over Presentations
The Empathy project will be meeting at the same time as a project on Torture and another project on Strangers, Aliens and Foreigners. We welcome submissions which cross the divide between project areas. If you would like to be considered for a cross project session, please mark your submission “Crossover Submission”.

What to Send
300 word abstracts, proposals and other forms of contribution should be submitted by Friday 29th January 2016.
All submissions be minimally double reviewed, under anonymous (blind) conditions, by a global panel drawn from members of the Project Team and the Advisory Board. In practice our procedures usually entail that by the time a proposal is accepted, it will have been triple and quadruple reviewed.

You will be notified of the panel’s decision by Friday 12th February 2016.
If your submission is accepted for the conference, a full draft of your contribution should be submitted by Friday 3rd June 2016.

Abstracts may be in Word, RTF or Notepad formats with the following information and in this order:

a) author(s), b) affiliation as you would like it to appear in programme, c) email address, d) title of proposal, e) body of proposal, f) up to 10 keywords.
E-mails should be entitled: Empathy Abstract Submission

Where to Send
Abstracts should be submitted simultaneously to the Organising Chairs with listed emails:

Organising Chairs:
Susan Fairbairn: gsemp@inter-disciplinary.net
Rob Fisher:
empathy3@inter-disciplinary.net

This event is an inclusive interdisciplinary research and publishing project. It aims to bring together people from different areas and interests to share ideas and explore various discussions which are innovative and exciting.

A number of publications are in press and/or in process rom previous meetings of this project. All papers accepted for and presented at the conference must be in English and will be eligible for publication in an ISBN eBook.  Selected papers may be developed for publication in a themed hard copy volume(s). All publications from the conference will require editors, to be chosen from interested delegates from the conference.

Ethos
Inter-Disciplinary.Net believes it is a mark of personal courtesy and professional respect to your colleagues that all delegates should attend for the full duration of the meeting. If you are unable to make this commitment, please do not submit an abstract for presentation. Please note: Inter-Disciplinary.Net is a not-for-profit network and we are not in a position to be able to assist with conference travel or subsistence.