"Fearless Girl Statue Charging Bull Wall Street New York City" by Anthony Quintano is licensed under CC BY 2.0 (via Flickr)

Walking through New York City’s financial district, tourists and Wall Street professionals alike are sure to notice the standoff between and 11-foot-tall charging bull and the 4-foot-tall little girl, staring at him, unmoved by his size and power. As the conflict between the two statues heats up, Americans must decide who to defend.

Image by Scott W. H. Young (via Twitter)

In the wake of numerous killings of black men and women by police, representation of black death in media and art has become a heated debate. The most recent turn in this discussion does not surround a recent killing, but a murder over six decades old. At the 2017 Whitney Biennial, a prominent art show in New York, artist Dana Schutz has faced sustained protest from artists and activists over Open Casket, a painting depicting the body of Emmett Till, a black teenager brutally murdered by two white men in 1955.

Screen Capture via "photo-eye In-Print Photobook Video #32: The Enclave by Richard Mosse" by photo-eye (via Vimeo)

The ongoing Syrian refugee crisis has raised ethical concerns surrounding immigration, borders, and terrorism. However, one less-discussed ethical dilemma surrounding refugees is that of photojournalism and art. Irish photographer Richard Mosse made headlines last week after publishing photographs taken of refugee camps using cameras with military grade thermal radiation. The photographs are extremely detailed and might even portray a sense of voyeurism.

"Life jackets on the beach" by Ann Wuyts is licensed under CC BY-2.0 (via Flickr)

Under ideal circumstances, the dinghy should have only held eight people. The same could have been said of the many boats that preceded it, in search of beaches in Greece. Yet, just as those before them, the rubber dinghy left the shores of Turkey’s Bodrum Peninsula in the early hours of the morning. Among the twelve people onboard were three-year-old Aylan Kurdi and his family, refugees from the besieged Syrian town of Kobane.

Collection of Greek and Roman Antiquities, Kunsthistorisches Museum by James Steakley (CC BY-SA 3.0)

Inseparable from the modern museum is an examination of how the forces of globalization affect it. As audiences of these museums seek increasingly globalized experiences, so too have the collections of museums diversified with collections from around the world. Impressive as they may be, though, such collections bring with them a number of ethical issues. And in the time of ISIS and antiquity black markets, foremost among them is just how such antiquities arrived in the museum’s hallowed halls in the first place.

In February, Dr. Wesley Cray of Grand Valley State University presented his talk “Unperformable Works and the Ontology of Art” as a part of the Young Philosophers Lecture Series hosted by the Prindle Institute and the DePauw Philosophy Department. Next week, we’ll post Dr. Danielle Wenner’s lecture “What Is the Meaning of Freedom?”

Throughout May and June, we’ll continue to post videos of each talk (also available on YouTube).

Enjoy, and be sure to let us know what you think in the comments!

Homeless on bench by Tomas Castelazo (CC BY-SA 3.0)

Two families, $200,000, and any number of difficult decisions. It is a well-worn recipe for game shows and reality television alike. In this regard, it appears that CBS’ new show, “The Briefcase,” is no different from its predecessors. However, the context this formula inhabits has sparked a growing controversy around the show. For, in this case, the families are grappling with poverty, and they must ultimately decide whether to keep their share of the money or give it to the other, equally struggling family.

"Clowes Pavilion - Indianapolis Museum of Art" by Daderot, Public Domain.

It is easy to think of the art museum as a clinical space. Seemingly divorced from the outside world at times, these pristine spaces and the artworks that inhabit them often could not feel farther from real-life political struggles. Yet these sanitized, white gallery walls and climate-controlled rooms play host to a number of political debates that are intimately connected to the world beyond the museum gates.

The conflict in Syria is a humanitarian catastrophe on a massive scale, with hundreds of thousands dead and millions of others forced to flee their homes. Recently, the BBC has attempted to expand the impact of the Syrian narrative by tapping into an intimate intersection between humans and technology: the video game. Journalist Mamdouh Akbiek and researcher Eloise Dicker have created an interactive, storybook-style game in which users make choices for their virtual family of refuges as they attempt the journey from Damascus to Europe.

The game, entitled Syrian Journey: Choose your own escape route, has come under fire from critics who say that it trivializes the horrors faced by refugees everyday. One expert on the Middle East suggests in the Daily Mail that “the decision of the BBC to transform the human suffering of literally millions into a children’s game beggars belief.” Is it morally permissible to construct a video game around a narrative of human suffering? Does connecting to these characters via digital interaction foster empathy, or belittle the reality of these experiences?

In an article by Keith Stuart, he argues that these interactive dialogues are nothing new, and in fact may be the next big development in news media. He insists that video games have matured over the last 40 years into a truly artistic medium, and criticism from conventional news sources is nothing more than, “old-fashioned moral panic.”

I agree that video games could offer a unique opportunity for user engagement within certain contexts. In the case of Syrian Journey, the game is not marketed to children, nor presented as pure entertainment. It is designed as an informational experience, meant to connect the user to a minimal understanding of the harsh decisions that Syrian refugees are forced to make. Mass media in the 21st century has become increasingly pervasive, utilizing technology to wedge itself more deeply into the cracks between culture, society, and politics. Video games may be the next step in this process.

People are no longer satisfied with static media, but seek sources of information that allow a two-way dialogue. The ability of video games to escape linear narratives could allow for more nuanced story telling, and plugging-in could force engagement on a deeper and more intimate level. Making decisions within the confines of virtual reality could lead to a more complete understanding of the human side of the story. As stated by Stuart, “Games offer a range of ways of taking on a topic that linear forms can’t – putting you in the shoes of another person…”

However, moral problems may arise from the selfishness of the user. Eventually players may demand less engagement with the topic and more entertainment, skewing the integrity of the interaction as a whole. Developers may come to exploit these narratives of suffering, as those privileged enough to have access to these technologies demand their next virtual challenge.