1st Global Conference: Empathy (November, 2014: Prague, Czech Republic)

full name / name of organization: 
Dr Rob Fisher, Inter-disciplinary.Net

1st Global Conference: Empathy

Friday 7th November – Sunday 10th November 2014
Prague, Czech Republic

Call for Presentations:

The will to understand or to attempt to understand others by imagining what it might feel like to be them; how it might feel to experience the world from their shoes – from inside their skin, is arguably one of the central achievements of humankind. This is the human trait known as 'empathy'. It underpins much of our lives – from the ways in which people relate to and care for one another within families and in bigger groups, to the ways in which we communicate with one another through literature, art, film, advertising and digital media. Many professions – from nursing, counselling psychotherapy and medicine, to teaching, product design, architecture, advertising and stand-up comedy, depend at least partly, on empathic skill.

It is possible to empathise with others whose lives are very different from our own, and because empathy involves the use of the imagination, we can even empathise with people in experiences that we are unlikely ever to have, or perhaps that we will never be able to have. Though empathy is often viewed through 'rose-coloured spectacles', as if it is always a good thing, it can be put to bad uses, for example by bullies who use empathic skill to know how best to harm their victims.

Some people believe that everyone who is aware of others has the ability to empathise, at least to some extent; others disagree, believing, rather, that some individuals, who are often referred to as 'psychopathic', have no ability to empathise. Others again believe that empathy is both a gift and a skill that can be developed. They note that while some people seem to empathise naturally, others don't, and argue that given the right experiences, most people can develop empathic ability.

Empathy: imagining the world from the perspective of another or others, will provide a space in which academics as well as practitioners and professionals for whom empathy is centrally important, can explore the part empathy plays in human life. It will, for example, be a place for reflection on its significance for practitioners in health and social care; education; architecture and town planning; politics; the police; advertising; media of all kinds; the news industry in all its forms; film and theatre, and the fine arts, including the work of artists and those who work in museums and art galleries.

Proposals are invited for individual contributions and for symposia of three closely related papers that address the place that empathy has to play in any area of human life, including:

~~Health and social care.
~~Empathy in storytelling of all kinds, including novels and short stories, theatre; narrative and documentary film; digital storytelling of all kinds.
~~Empathy and the arts.
~~The communications industry, including both print and digital journalism; film, television and radio.
~~Empathy in education.
~~Explorations of empathy in academic research, by, for example, psychologists, philosophers, theologians, nurses, counsellors, teachers and literary theorists.

Proposals might, for example, address questions such as:

-Is empathy a natural ability, or a learned and practiced skill?
-What is the relationship between empathy and sympathy?
-Do empathic people always display helpful, caring and considerate behaviour towards others?
-What role does empathy play in education? Could an un-empathic person be a successful teacher?
-What part does empathy play in the narrative arts of literature, theatre and film?
-Could someone who has poor empathic skills conduct a good interview?
-Does social networking increase or diminish empathy in those who use it?
-How does empathy make itself known in the work of architects, designers, advertisers, lawyers, theologians, journalists, town planners, TV presenters, politicians, prison officers, doctors, nurses, therapists, school teachers, priests, artists, entertainers of all kinds?
-What part, if any, does empathy play in the creation of digital media and perhaps, especially, in the creation of computer games?
-Is bullying a result of an empathy deficit? Or is it, rather, the case that well developed empathic ability informs bullying behaviour, in the same way that it allows the best torturers to decide how best to hurt and terrorise their victims?
-What part does empathy play in romantic love?
-How important for ethical living, is the ability to empathise?

In addition to the presentation of conference papers, the Steering Group welcomes the submission of shorts workshops and accounts of professional practice, as well as other contributions, including performances. It particularly welcomes the submission of pre-formed panel proposals.

In order to support and encourage interdisciplinarity engagement, it is our intention to create the possibility of starting dialogues between the parallel events running during this conference. Delegates are welcome to attend up to two sessions in each of the concurrent conferences. We also propose to produce cross-over sessions between these groups – and we welcome proposals which deal with the relationship between Performance, Fandom and Empathy.

What to Send:
300 word abstracts should be submitted by Friday 11th July 2014. If an abstract is accepted for the conference, a full draft paper should be submitted by Friday 17th September 2014. Abstracts should be submitted simultaneously to both Organising Chairs; abstracts may be in Word or RTF formats with the following information and in this order:

a) author(s), b) affiliation as you would like it to appear in programme, c) email address, d) title of proposal, e) body of proposal, f) up to 10 keywords.
E-mails should be entitled: EMPATHY1 Abstract Submission.

Please use plain text (Times Roman 12) and abstain from using any special formatting, characters or emphasis (such as bold, italics or underline). We acknowledge receipt and answer to all paper proposals submitted. If you do not receive a reply from us in a week you should assume we did not receive your proposal; it might be lost in cyberspace! We suggest, then, to look for an alternative electronic route or resend.

Organising Chairs:
Gavin Fairbairn & Susan Fairbairn: gavin@inter-disciplinary.net
Rob Fisher: empathy1@inter-disciplinary.net

The conference is part of the 'Making Sense Of:' series of research projects. The aim of the conference is to bring together people from different areas and interests to share ideas and explore various discussions which are innovative and exciting. All proposals accepted for and presented at the conference must be in English and will be eligible for publication in an ISBN eBook. Selected proposals may be developed for publication in a themed hard copy volume(s). All publications from the conference will require editors, to be chosen from interested delegates from the conference.

Inter-Disciplinary.Net believes it is a mark of personal courtesy and professional respect to your colleagues that all delegates should attend for the full duration of the meeting. If you are unable to make this commitment, please do not submit an abstract for presentation.

For further details of the conference, please visit:

Please note: Inter-Disciplinary.Net is a not-for-profit network and we are not in a position to be able to assist with conference travel or subsistence.