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/ 6 January 2015

St Peter De Beauvoir church in Hackney hosts experimental installation on digital empathy

Scientists at the Bartlett Centre for Advanced Spatial Analysis at University College have teamed up with St Peter De Beauvoir church to create an innovative installation that explores new way of relating and showing empathy in the digital age.

The team has installed a wifi-enabled prayer candle system, a digital advent window and a holy water font connected to a motion sensor. These allow visitors to the church to manifest their prayers digitally, allowing them to take a fleeting, tangible form.

The project is part of CEDE – Creating and Exploring Digital Empathy. The aim is that innovative methods and novel design will allow CEDE to enable a fuller expression of what it means to be digitally human and in particular to investigate new methods to feel and express empathy via the network.

CEDE will continue the work by exploring interactive lighting, talking pews and interactive wearables for the local community throughout 2015.

The Revd Julia Porter-Price, Vicar at St Peter De Beauvoir, commented:

“This is a unique opportunity for the congregation and the community around St Peter De Beauvoir to be involved in cutting edge research and to consider questions about what it means to be human in a digital age.

“St Peter’s hopes it will help the church to develop deeper ways of communicating digitally and that the project will engage many more people than those who take part in Sunday and weekday worship. In working out how to develop the installation, forgotten parts of the church building have been discovered and connections made between different levels of the building and different user groups.

“I hope this project will contribute to new ways of thinking about how churches communicate through buildings and beyond.”

The project has been profiled on the BBC’s technology programme, Click.

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