The Emerging World of Virtual Reality and Human Rights


2016 Season
New York

This program will run 90 minutes and is a Special Event - Discussion Panel featuring a selection of video and animation clips. 

Virtual Reality (VR) is an expanding arena for immersive and interactive content. Creators are exploring ways to project participants into new worlds and experiences, and a growing number of these are focused on human rights. A variety of backers such as the New York Times, Google, Facebook and the United Nations are working to develop and expand our use of the technology. Questions over how best to use VR, and it’s ability to impact human rights situations, are hotly debated – particularly as VR’s unique approach to audience experience raises new issues over legitimacy and responsibility. Creators differ over how far to push audiences’ boundaries, for what impact, and with what design model. Opinions over these questions are ever-changing within the field. Join us for a panel discussion with creators, journalists and human rights experts to discuss this exciting and evolving intersection of VR and human rights. Panelists include Dan Archer, Immersive Journalist, Sam Gregory, Program Director at WITNESS, Marcelle Hopkins, VR journalist, Francesca Panetta, Special Projects Editor at The Guardian and Lina Srivastava, Founder, CIEL.

This panel is presented in conjunction with the VR installation 6x9: An Immersive Experience of Solitary Confinement.

Various artists
Country of Production: 
Filmmaker Bio(s): 
Dan Archer
Immersive Journalist

Dan Archer is the founder of Empathetic Media, a VR, AR and graphic journalism production agency specializing in immersive storytelling. His work has been published among others by the BBC, Canadian Broadcasting Corp., Washington Post, American Public Media, Vice and Fusion, covering topics from the Colombian peace process to homelessness in NYC, life in the slums of Dhaka, Bangladesh and human trafficking in Nepal. Through Empathetic he also created the first augmented reality coverage of the Freddie Gray trials being held in Baltimore through Empathetic's mobile app, ARc stories. He is currently researching the metrics of empathy in VR journalism at the Tow Center at Columbia University, was a 2014 Reynolds Journalism Institute Fellow at the University of Missouri and a 2011 Knight Journalism Fellow at Stanford University. @empatheticmedia

Sam Gregory
Program Director, WITNESS

Sam Gregory helps people use the power of the moving image and participatory technologies to create human rights change. He is Program Director of WITNESS (, the leading organization supporting millions of people to use video for human rights; he also teaches on human rights and participatory media at the Harvard Kennedy School. Sam has worked on impactful campaigns worldwide and created many training programmes and teaching texts. He leads WITNESS’ work on the award-winning ObscuraCam and CameraV tools and helped co-found the global Video4Change network. In 2010 he was a Rockefeller Foundation Bellagio Resident on the future of video-based advocacy, in 2013 he was a Future for Good Fellow at the Institute for the Future looking at the power of immersive advocacy and in 2015, he launched the ‘Mobil-Eyes Us’ initiative focused on combining the experience of live and immersive video with smart task-routing within networks to drive more meaningful and useful global activism. Follow Sam at @samgregory or

Marcelle Hopkins
VR Journalist

Marcelle Hopkins is a journalist and VR filmmaker specializing in human rights and humanitarian crises. She directed, wrote and co-produced a virtual reality documentary on South Sudan for the PBS series FRONTLINE and the Brown Institute for Media Innovation. On the Brink of Famine premiered on Facebook 360 and Oculus in March 2016. In 2015, she received a Magic Grant from the Brown Institute for Media Innovation and a Social Justice Media Fellowship from the Made in NY Media Center by IFP. In 2014, Marcelle wrote and produced an interactive documentary on Sri Lanka’s recovery from civil war, which won a UN Foundation Prize and a Horizon Interactive Award. Follow Marcelle at @marcellehopkins

Francesca Panetta
Special Projects Editor, The Guardian

Francesca Panetta is a multi-award winning sound artist and journalist. She works for the Guardian as a Special Projects Editor leading on projects which innovate in storytelling. Working with journalists and multimedia producers, developers and designers, she has commissioned and directed flagship pieces such as Firestorm, The Shirt on Your Back, the View from the Shard, The First World War: an interactive multilingual interactive documentary. In addition to her work at the Guardian, Francesca works as a sound artist specialising in binaural sound design and non-linear storytelling, usually in physical landscapes. Francesca talks around the world about digital storytelling and innovation in audio.

Lina Srivastava
Founder, CIEL

Lina Srivastava is a strategist who works in narrative design, social innovation, and storytelling for human rights and international development. She is the founder CIEL, a social innovation strategy group in New York City. Lina has worked with social impact organizations around the world including UNESCO, the World Bank Institute, AARP, UNICEF, the Rockefeller Foundation, Apne Aap, Shine Global, and Donor Direct Action. The creator of the “transmedia activism” framework, Lina has worked with impact campaigns for several documentaries, including Oscar-winning Born into Brothels, Emmy-nominated The Devil Came on Horseback, Oscar-winning Inocente, and Sundance Film Festival and Social Impact Media Award-winning Who Is Dayani Cristal? She has produced Priya’s Shakti, an augmented-reality comic book concerning gender-based violence in India, is the interactive producer for the forthcoming Traveling While Black, and works with Lakou Mizik, a music project in Haiti. A former attorney and nonprofit executive director, Lina is on faculty in the Masters of Fine Arts Program in Design and Social Innovation at the School of Visual Arts.   

Presented in partnership with: