Art Professors Explore “Truth and Reconciliation” in Santa Fe Residency

screen shot of 360 video
Friday, September 13, 2019
Digital Media professors Heather Freeman and Jeff Murphy are creating "social bots."

In July, digital media professors Heather Freeman and Jeff Murphy participated in the “Truth and Reconciliation” artist residency at the Santa Fe Art Institute. Over a 15-month period, from September 2018 through November 2019, the “Truth and Reconciliation” residency is bringing together 70 artists, creative practitioners, content experts, and innovative thinkers from all over the world to explore how uncovering and acknowledging the truth can be used as a means of reconciliation.

During their one-month residency, Freeman and Murphy began to develop an immersive “narrative” around the topic of climate change, using a variety of approaches, including 360-degree photography and Virtual Reality (VR) video.

In the project, scheduled to be completed in late 2020, Freeman and Murphy will work with artists/programmers Stephanie Moran and Alex Hogan at Etic Lab in the United Kingdom to create a “social bot” (automated software that poses as a real person in online discussions). The bot will “discuss” climate change and environmental issues with other online social bots.

“These bots will specifically seek out keywords such as #climate, #drought, #botany, #plant, and similar hashtags,” Murphy wrote in a residency description. “We will follow future online engagement and keep the transcripts of the ‘conversations’ between these automated entities.”

While in Santa Fe, Murphy shot 360-degree footage of the desert, and Freeman created drawings of other 360 footage to develop the alternate-reality landscapes in which these "conversations" will take place. The contrived landscapes reflect the northern region of New Mexico, which has suffered prolonged drought since 2000.

“Our intention is to display the fabrication of misinformation and align it with photographic and video representation in order to examine the truthiness of online data and information,” wrote Murphy.