The Machine To Be Another is an embodied interaction system that merges human performance with neuroscience protocols and telepresence experiments. The system offers users an immersive experience of what it feels like to be in the body of another person. At heart a long-term investigation about identity and empathy, The Machine to Be Another aims to work as an open tool for social relations that asks the questions: By understanding the other, can we better understand ourselves? What would the world be like if we could really see through the eyes of the other, and if we really put ourselves in someone else’s shoes? The system has been used in performances/experiments investigating bias toward immigrants, mother-daughter relationships, body extension for functional diversity, pain tolerance and gender identity. In each case, our methodology consisted of working with focus groups of interested parties, which were co-designed performances that included practices drawing from storytelling or physically integrated dance. The system ensures the multisensory integration of aural, visual, proprioceptive and haptic stimuli that produce the psychophysical phenomenon of embodiment. Our approach stems from studies in embodied cognition; building on recent discoveries, such as mirror neurons and their relation to empathy, which reveal, among other things, that our experience of the world is deeply tied to that of others. As Giacomo Rizzolatti wrote, “How bizarre it would be to conceive of an I without an Us.” Adapting neuroscience protocols from institutions such as Group Ehrsson (Stockholm) and EventLab (Barcelona), we explore embodiment techniques and technology within a dynamic artistic framework that fosters connections between diverse fields of scientific and sociological enquiry. In order to expand the reach and application of this project we use low-budget technology, have released our code under a Creative Commons license and openly publish our results to encourage the development of other projects that build on our platform. Our interdisciplinary approach has attracted the interest of international media and researchers ranging from anthropology and human-computer interaction to neuro-rehabilitation, queer theory and conflict resolution.
BeAnotherLab (Transnational) is a group of six interdisciplinary investigators with backgrounds in digital arts, engineering, cognitive sciences, interactive media, conflict resolution and social relations. United by a dream of “raising empathy among individuals,” they independently researched the issue for almost two years in collaboration with several artists, amateurs and researchers from anthropology to neuroscience, which led to a series of performances suggesting new avenues for the study. The group is currently creating an open source community to investigate applications in conflict resolution and healthcare.
BeAnotherLab: art collective composed by Philippe Bertrand (BR), Christian Cherene (UK) Daniel González Franco (CO), Daanish Masood (SA/US/IN), Marte Roel (MX), Arthur Tres (FR) in collaboration with an Open Source community of researchers, artists and members of the public.