Lost & Found – homelessness told through the eyes of the homeless

Mayor of the City of Galway, Councillor Eddie Hoare with Director of the Centre for Creative Technologies at University of Galway Conn Holohan at the launch of Lost & Found. Credit: Sean Lydon.
Nov 27 2023 Posted: 08:43 GMT

University of Galway and Galway Simon Community have come together with filmmakers to produce a new film capturing the experience of homelessness from the experience of those who have lived it.

Lost & Found is a co-created, virtual reality film produced out of the University’s Centre for Creative Technologies, in collaboration with clients from Galway Simon.

The production saw people who have lived experience of homelessness working with leading virtual reality filmmakers and University of Galway researchers as part of the Immersive Empathy project. The team adopted a 360-degree style of filming, which captures a fully immersive world that can be viewed within a virtual reality headset. The production utilised oral history interviews and collaborative workshops to develop the content of the film so that it conveyed the realities of being homeless. 

The film was launched at a special screening at University of Galway as part of the Arts in Action programme with the audience wearing VR headsets allowing them to feel as though they are in the world of someone experiencing homelessness.

Mayor of the City of Galway, Councillor Eddie Hoare, said: “Too often the voices of the people affected by the homelessness crisis are missing from our national debates. Huge credit goes to the people who opened up about their experiences of being homeless in order to allow us to more deeply appreciate its impact on their lives and wellbeing. The researchers at University of Galway and the filmmakers have demonstrated the value of giving people the tools and technology to open up new windows of experience and empathy.” 

Karen Golden, chief executive of Galway Simon, said: “We’re very proud to have been part of this ground breaking initiative, and deeply grateful to the University of Galway for involving clients of Galway Simon Community in the project. Participants found the experience very empowering, and the feedback has been incredibly positive.”

Dr Conn Holohan, Lost & Found project lead and Director of the Centre for Creative Technologies at University of Galway, said: “The goal of the immersive empathy project is to empower people who have experienced homelessness to tell their own stories through immersive technologies. It is only when communities are empowered to speak for themselves, to tell their own stories and challenge existing perspectives and beliefs, that empathy can provide a genuine platform for lasting social change.”

Lost & Found was produced as part of the Immersive Empathy Project, an initiative of researchers within the disciplines of film, drama, psychology, business and digital humanities at University of Galway. The project explores the potential of virtual reality as a tool for social change.

Much has been written during the recent explosion of interest in virtual reality and immersive technologies about the power of VR to increase empathy levels towards others. The potential for immersive technologies to act as catalysts for social change was identified by VR filmmaker Chris Milk in a 2015 TED Talk, in which he coined the term “empathy machine” to describe what he saw as the defining possibility of this technology.

University of Galway launched the Centre for Creative Technologies in September 2023 with the aim of fostering and support research and teaching activities that explore and develop links between creative practice and technology and creativity as a principle and practice that extends beyond the arts.


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