Dr. Michele Aaron shared the outcomes from her AHRC funded project ‘Digital Technology and Human Vulnerability: Towards an Ethical Praxis’ at our research seminar today. Dr Aaron showed some clips from the films made by patients at the John Taylor Hospice. Nothing is more moving than seeing authentic, honest accounts of dying people. The range of creativity and content in these films demonstrated different attitudes towards life (and death). Participating in this film-making project also appeared to give the patients a sense of direction, and a sense of agency, allowing them to leave a legacy. Film-making, a creative and performance-based method, has been employed as a method for engagement, for empowering patients, and for collecting evidence of embodied experiences.
Our colleague Steve Chinn followed Dr Aaron’s emotionally charged presentation with an informational and insightful talk on the ‘representations of cancer in popular culture’. He addressed many critical issues that I have not thought of before: for example, Breaking bad‘s failure of portraying a cancer patient truthfully; Obama’s overly frequent use of the word ‘cancer’ as a metaphor; the overly frequent use of military action metaphors in ‘fighting’ against cancers in the mass media, which are also absorbed and prevalent in everyday conversations. All these minor things upset many cancer patients (or people who are terminally ill) because dealing with cancers is not easy. Steve also shared his ‘accidental conversations’ with oncologists about treating patients. The painting ‘Three Oncologists’ by Ken Currie at the National Galleries of Scotland vividly revealed how little we know about cancers.
Indeed, not only do we know very little about cancers, we also seldom talk about them (or death or dying) in our society. It is like a taboo. Film-making kind of allows people to express their voices on these difficult topics. While the videos from the “Life: Moving” project are engrossing, I could not help thinking of the recent saga with Logan Paul’s suicide forest video and those who chose to broadcast / live streamed how they committed suicide on the internet. Is it just a generational difference (how digital natives voice their views on death and dying on the internet where they were endowed with)? Or is it to do with how digital technologies shape our ways of living / dying? About the extent to which young people see and show their on-screen selves, their instinct of putting everything (personal) online?
The encounter with these videos has been profound. See below.