Encountering Empathy: Interrogating the Past, Envisioning the Future

At a time when the world seems beset with tragedy, be it the mass displacement of people from their homelands by natural disaster or fleeing political or religious persecution, the need for empathy with people in need has seldom been greater, nor is the quest for peace more dependent upon our acceptance of one another across national borders.

Thus the stage was set to bring together academics, practitioners and creative artists from across the globe, with the shared intention of examining the nature of the human phenomenon we call empathy, and exploring the ways in which it has shaped our past and how it may influence our future.

What results is an eclectic collection of research ranging from physiological and theoretical explorations of empathy to how empathy may be experienced, enhanced and learned via new technologies and engagement in massively multiplayer online role playing games, sparking debate wherein the supposed “inherent goodness” of empathy is challenged and questions arise regarding the potential of new technologies to act as vehicles for teaching and learning how to be empathetic.