michaela-frenchMichaela French has been making large-scale immersive, full dome experiences since 1999, and at IDFA DocLab she was showing her Climate Crimes piece, which explores the complex relationship between global air pollution, climate change and human migration. The IDFA DocLab had three different dome screenings showing at the ARTIS-Planetarium for the first time in 2019, and I talk with French about some of the unique affordances of the dome as a medium that’s distinctly different than both film and regular VR experiences.

French uses the affordances of full dome immersion to connect the dots between the small microcosm to the large macrocosm within her Climate Crimes experience. So she has been thinking quite a bit about the small actions that we all need to make in order to make a difference on this issue, and she calls it more of a crisis of consciousness and a crisis of ego rather than labeling it as a climate crisis. We need to collectively change our actions, but we first need to change our thinking and our conceptual frameworks for how reality works. She’s been looking into more ecological frameworks from perception expert and philosopher James J. Gibson who pioneered ecological psychology with E. J. Gibson. This paper by Lobo, Heras-Escribano and Travieso says that “the main principles of ecological psychology are the continuity of perception and action, the organism-environment system as unit of analysis, the study of affordances as the objects of perception, combined with an emphasis on perceptual learning and development.”

After diving so deep into this topic for her Climate Crimes piece, French provides a refreshingly candid account as to what is at stake when it comes to the implications of climate change, especially when it comes to human migration and who is at the most risk for being displaced due to the fallout from climate change. French had just attended Sunday evening’s Artificial Futures Symposium focusing on artificial intelligence, which created quite a contrast to what she considered to be what the most pressing issues of our day and what we’re focusing on. She is able to provide a much deeper context and ground the conversation into some pretty fundamental issues that we’re facing as humanity.

French also strongly believes in the power of immersive storytelling, and the power of dome experiences to be able to make a difference in people’s thinking. And if we can change people’s thinking, then we might be able to change some of those people’s actions. If enough actions are changed, then it might be able to bring about deeper societal and global change. It’s a difficult conversation to have, but it’s also one of the most important ones that happened for me in my coverage at the DocLab.

There’s a lot more to unpack in this conversation, but it’s probably best if you listen to it and then invite a friend to listen to it so that you can unpack it together. We all need to figure out what our role is in trying to bring about change, and hopefully there’s something in this conversation & transmission that helps you find that if you don’t already know.


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Music: Fatality

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