For my final project, I am working with Leslie Ruckman and Dana Abrassart.
When we sat down to chat about ideas, I explained that I had just lost a past co-worker in Chicago due to a car crash and had consequently been spending the past week thinking about death and about how we rarely consider our own mortality. From here commenced a discussion about different cultural views surrounding death and how western society tends to ignore its existence in our daily life.
Dana told us that she had been to a lecture a couple years back by a researcher at NYU who was involved with a study that used psychedelic drugs for therapeutic treatment with terminal cancer patients. During the lecture, he cited how many of these patients would come for a single session and that they expressed having ‘spiritual’ experiences during the sessions. Many of them cited feelings of relief and said they felt as though they had come to terms on some level with their impending death.
What interested all of us about this story wasn’t so much the aspect of psychedelics, but the unique cross-section of individuals who were involved with this study. These are people who are facing their own mortality and given their willingness to try a psychedelic session, seem to be open to exploring alternative narratives to typical western ways of dying.
From there, we knew we wanted to explore the concept of Dying in a Western World. What does that mean? Why do other cultures have much more intimate relationships with death? What happens when you must face death head on? How can we re-write our own cultural associations?
Our story as of now is more about presenting narratives and/or presenting different ways in which people face death. Much of how our story is formed with hinges on with whom we can speak.
Right now we are entertaining the idea of overlaying a narrative in VR and creating more abstract visuals that pertain to the story.
Dana also remembered a friend of hers went to NYU Nursing school and ended up working with this team of researchers, so she reached out to her. She now lives and practices in Connecticut as a hospice nurse and we are slated to have a discussion with her on Sunday morning.She is also trying to contact members of this team to see if they would be willing to have a discussion, though we have reached out on our own.
A friend of a friend is a cognitive psychologist and did her dissertation on death. I’ve also reached out to have a coffee with her and see what her focus was and if it could be helpful to include in our project.
Lastly, Emmanuel’s (an ITP colleague) brother interned with the NYU team of researches two summers ago, so I’m also trying to pick his brain and see if I can get some overarching bullet points on what he learned, what worked and what didn’t.
Our next steps are to speak with some people and do some more research to really solidify what the project looks like. We are keeping it open in order to make sure that we create a project that is relevant and gives the concept the respect it deserves.