College of Fine Arts and Communications Associate Dean Amy Jensen promoted physical and digital proximity as a way to build empathetic relationships with others during her forum address on July 27.
Jensen shared how being a mother, administrator and art lover help her feel closer to those she meets online and in person.
“In both our physical and in our digital worlds, we should learn to create proximity and immediacy rather than distance and division,” Jensen said.
Regardless of her love and enjoyment of digital media and platforms, she said she knows bodies and souls are the greatest tools humankind has.
“What matters then is where we place our bodies, and with whom we build our affective ties. I recognize these ideas from our faith tradition when we say phrases like, ‘standing in holy places’ and ‘loving our neighbor’ — words that invoke proximity and presence,” she said.
Jensen’s address focused on how individuals can expand their senses of belonging by physically and digitally placing themselves in places where art can be found.
She said her goal in digital settings is to access knowledge, encourage her curiosities and see beauty in the world. However, Jensen also recognized that Instagram, YouTube, TikTok and many other social media platforms can become places of imbalance and hurt.
Because of the double-edged nature of digital, online settings, she encouraged people to specifically see media as an outlet to make and take in charity. A person can go online and empathetically see the incredibly diverse viewpoints throughout all of God’s children.
Jensen quoted film theorist Sharon Swenson who said, “media artifacts charitably made or viewed offer us the opportunity to experience other people, to see the reasons they make choices, and to experience the consequences of those choices alongside them.”
Jensen’s antidote to the discouraging moments on social media was to treat her digital interactions as a reciprocal experience with other people. “Intentionally making or viewing art with others’ perspectives in mind helps us to arrive at informed choices that are consistent with our own values while welcoming and appreciating the perspectives of others.”
The address demonstrated Jensen’s belief that people must see their relationships to each other as critical and intertwined. She said she hopes for all to actively consider where their bodies are placed, where their souls are sent and with whom they connect with.
“An education in the arts has taught me that we should carefully practice seeing all people as sharing the same trials, where joy is transmitted in simple gestures and pain can be comforted through pure empathy and understanding,” she said.