Premiered at IDFA Festival – Nov 2016
DeathTolls Experience is a data visualization in virtual reality that aims to re-sensitize the user to the casualties of the terrorist attacks in Europe, refugee deaths in the Mediterranean Sea, and the human cost of the Syrian civil war. The project challenges the lack of concern that results from the frequency of such news on the mass media. By walking the user through hundreds of thousands of dead bodies in photorealistic CGI scenes, the creator Ali Eslami aims to inspire an active awareness towards big data that represents massive deaths, and compassion for the people behind those numbers.
DeathTolls Experience is a journey through the Information that we overly hear in the news every day. It’s a Virtual Reality project that puts the user between all the dead bodies in recent mass death. the journey begins from Europe [Brussels Shootings, Paris Attacks, Nice Attack], then goes to the Mediterranean Sea [refugees who drowned in the sea last year] and ends up in the Middle East [Syrian Civilian deathtoll]. This experience provides a mirror to our own actions as collective of humans. We perceive our surrounding reality based on our Knowledgebase (Perceptual set) and this project tries to provide a knowledge base to perceive a fracture of our actions as a collective of humans. One of the pieces that are missing in our knowledge base is the ability to perceive Big Numbers. We have trouble understanding and accepting mass death. For example, numbers like 1; 2; 14; 20; 50, are all quantities that we encounter quite frequently and therefore we’re able to rationalize them with a representative mind model. But then we get to numbers like 1,000; 10,000; 20,000. These numbers become increasingly difficult to conceptualize, but we can still grasp the general meaning of such numbers using visual models of large-scale things we encounter often in our little realities. So in this project for each dataset (Deathtoll) I made a specific environment that is relative to the data. this makes it more intuitive for the user to understand and relate to the information that lies in each environment.
As a practitioner, I did lots of research on human perception and cognitive science and was quite interested in exploring new pathways in the perception of Data. I found VR the greatest tool to mess around with this Idea and started prototyping representing Data in VR which I call it ‘Data Experience’. Firstly I think Death Toll is a data-set that we approach 9/10 times when we hear the news ! the chance of hearing a count of Dead and wounded people in the news is quite high! but the point is, Do we have any Idea about these numbers that we encounter daily ?! I believe not … because Once something gets over-perceived (i.e. dead numbers) our mind basically ignores it and most likely it won’t find a way through our Consciousness. which means We are not aware of these Data that’s basically the consequence of our own actions on Earth!
What I tried to achieve with this project is enhancing the perception of these data. because I think It’s necessary to be aware of our surroundings and actions. It somehow shows a visual model of huge numbers, like 310,000 death toll in Syria. that gives the user a vision to eventually have a more accurate Idea of the numbers they’ll confront next time in the news. I have the passion for creating something that can lead to a better awareness of our surrounding and push away the interfaces that disconnect us from our own actions in this Reality. What makes me excited about it is the potential impact on the people who try it and memories it creates.
Project’s first prototype was made as a First Person Game (non-VR).