This post is in the Empathy category

This animation is constructed from a video taken in the studio at QCGU. While permission for the recording to occur was granted, the participants gave consent only for the use of audio, but not video in the dissertation. This presented something of a dilemma, as the scene depicts an excellent example of empathy not working very well, and both the words spoken, with their pauses and intonation, and the body language of the participants are a part of the whole transaction.

Ultimately the simplified animation presents a significantly reduced visual data set and forces the viewer to concentrate on the aural information. The transcript of the scene is also given below, and if read alone does not suggest any particular problem, the words are fairly innocuous and logical. The full scene however tells a different story and appears here in the form of a theatrical script with stage directions. These directions are derived from a close observation of the original video, and from discussions with the participants after the fact, with access to the clip for stimulated recall. This was one of the first video recordings of interactions I made for this research, and the first I viewed in detail. While the taping was not a problem, the viewing was very confronting, and my response was diarised. An extract from that response is included in the post OMG.


Emma is a young singer / songwriter who has engaged me to produce some demo tracks with a view to recording her first album of songs. I have known her parents for some years in the local Bahá’í community but have not had a lot of social contact with her. Prior to this studio session, we had a single meeting where we had discussed musical directions and I had recorded her singing and playing guitar directly into my laptop through its built-in microphone as a reference.

In this session I had invited Eric, a student of mine to meet with us and listen to the songs so he could play guitar on the demo. Eric brought his instrument, and met Emma for the first time. In due course it turned out that Emma was aware of his band in the local scene and was something of a fan. She was therefore please to have him play on her material. As we played through the song, Eric quickly picked up the part with a little guidance from Emma.

The three of us were placed such that Eric had his back to the camera, with Emma and myself in full view.1


{ } denotes physical action

(.) denotes short pause

Bold denotes loud

Italic denotes soft

Underline denotes simultaneous speech

[ ] Denotes transcription comment


Eric: did I get too fast?

Emma: no that’s perfect

Colin: no, it had a bit of a push to it that I really liked


Colin: Um We’re going to have to have a {Points at Emma} bit of a think about the way you pitch [blank face]

Emma: [loud] yeah, I’m, um, {low, quiet} not well {smiles}

Colin: Um yeah, I know, but you have a (.) a general tendency to go {waves arms, rubs face, stammers}

Emma: yes

Colin: to the high note from underneath {indicates with hand}

Emma: uh-huh

Colin: and you’ve gotta start thinking about coming down to it

Emma: Uh-Huh, OK

Colin: Even if it’s the highest note you sing, you’ve got to think about coming back down – because sometimes you’re a bit under {not looking at Emma}

[Reaction not seen]

Emma: Yeah (..) I heard it {hands on head, leans back, looks away}

Colin: but we can work on that – those transitions {turns away imediately}

[00:25:33.14] mate, you’d better go to class

Eric: sure

Colin: I’ll just check and make sure I can get in here tomorrow – can you get here theoretically

Eric: Any time

Colin: Ok and I’d better get those release forms too {looks away does not look at Ryan again}

Eric: Yeah

Emma: {to Eric} thank you so much


Colin: Alright well that’ll be fun (.) Cool {rubs hands} [ excited. Next task ]

{Eric leaves, C directs attention straight back to task}.

[ No thanks, no goodbye – instantly forgotten ]


The implications of this short exchange hit me quite hard at the time.

The implications of this short exchange, lack of facial expression, inattention to facial expression and body language, intensity of focus, inappropriate timing and lack of empathy, hit me quite hard at the time.

  1. In some of these recordings two cameras to used to capture the full interaction, but it was not possible in this instance. []

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