The 8th ECREA conference – talk “Addressing loneliness by means of enacted co-presence in XR”, 6-9 September 2021

New dates for the 8th ECREA conference: 6-9 September 2021

Dear ECC 2020 conference applicants, dear ECREA members,

We would like to inform you that in consultation with the Local Organising Committee, the ECREA Executive Board has approved new dates for the 8th European Communication Conference: 6-9 September 2021. The conference was scheduled for 2-5 October 2020 but we had to make the uneasy decision to postpone. The different timelines and strategies of gradual withdrawal of pandemic prevention measures adopted by individual European countries have made it impossible to organise the event according to our standards of academic quality and hospitality.

The conference calendar will be revised and new important dates will be announced in the conference website.

We are looking forward to seeing you in Braga from the 6 to 9 September 2021.

The submission: ECC20-1152 title Addressing loneliness by means of enacted co-presence in XR  has been accepted to the 8th European Communication Conference to be held in Braga, Portugal, October 2-5, 2020.

Braga, Portugal ECC Abstract submitted tikka et al.

TITLE: Addressing loneliness by means of enacted co-presence in XR 


Pia Tikka1, Gholamreza Anbarjafari Shahab2, Doron Friedman3, Sergio Escalera4, Mauri Kaipainen5.
1University of Tallinn / BFM / MEDIT, Enactive Virtuality Lab, Tallinn, Estonia.
2University of Tartu, Intelligent Computer Vision iCV Lab, Tartu, Estonia.
3The Interdsiciplinary Center Herzliya, Sammy Ofer School of Communications / Advanced Reality Lab, Herzliya, Israel.
4University of Barcelona, Dept. Mathematics and Informatics / Computer Vision Center, Barcelona, Spain.
5Perspicamus Ltd, Company, Helsinki, Finland.

The very nature of the human species is social. Loneliness correlates with mental and physical ill-being within, for instance, the elderly, or people with disabilities, or other conditions causing reduced life-environment. Simultaneously, an increasing trend in the European lifestyle is to outsource taking care of such members of family into the hands of professional social and medical care. Yet, in the light of recent studies, loneliness can be considered a fatal condition. Loneliness reduces the ability to improve one’s life-conditions, motivation of taking care of one’s health, and affects negatively the functions of society. As an indication of the urgency of the matter, UK has even appointed a Minister of Loneliness. The issue dictates the need to figure out all plausible ways to fight loneliness. While human company must be the primary solution, other solutions must be considered to provide socio-emotional comfort to those who suffer of the lack of human accompaniment.We propose storytelling and narratives as the key component of satisfactory social interaction. Stories told provide supportive structures for maintaining one’s identity and connectivity as part of the world. This talk takes a look at the intriguing question, whether advanced audiovisual technologies which allow immersive interactive experiences within virtual narratives, in some form, might contribute to relieve this sore issue. To emphasize, immersive technologies, here, VR/AR/XR, cannot as such provide fully satisfactory solutions for complex human issue of loneliness. However, as a range of solutions for socially assistive robot technologies have already been proposed by others, it may be appropriate to balance the so far technology-dominated discussion with the deeply human approach of storytelling. The talk outlines efforts to combine the art of interactive audiovisual storytelling with already existing advanced technologies to explore the interconnections between loneliness and technology. It discusses empowering solutions to loneliness, while being mindful of technological determinism.

ECREA’s Executive Board and the Local Organizing Committee of the 2020 ECC in Braga are closely monitoring the rapidly evolving COVID-19 pandemic as we are concerned about the health and well-being of our members and conference attendees. The conference dates (2-5 October, 2020) remain unchanged at the present time but we wish to announce changes to the deadline for the acceptance of invitations and the registration period to take account of this period of uncertainty and give you more time to make decisions about attendance. We would greatly appreciate it if you could log in through the link below and confirm or decline the presentation of your paper at the conference. The new deadline for your decision is June 15, 2020. Registration will open on June 15, 2020 and the early bird registration will be correspondingly extended. To reiterate, our intention at present is to go ahead with the physical conference in October but we will review this on an ongoing basis as well as engaging in contingency planning. We are not contemplating a virtual conference as an alternative to the physical conference.

Please take care of yourself, your family and your loved ones. Further updates will follow in due course.




Enactive Virtuality Lab presents Dec 1, 2020 

Welcome. Please join us!

Enactive Virtuality Lab presents the on-going work in online seminar.

Date: Tuesday Dec 1, 2020 
Time: 09:30 -12:00 Helsinki
Join Zoom Meeting
Meeting ID: 986 5720 9753



Pia Tikka (Enactive Virtuality Team leader, MOBTT90)


Mehmet Burak Yılmaz (doctoral student @BFM)
Emotional impacts of camera movements
Exploring the emotional effects of different camera movement techniques (dolly, Steadicam, handheld) and the direction of the movement. Conducting psychophysiological experiments where the viewers watch cinematographic scenes.


Robert McNamara (doctor in law; doctoral student @BFM)
The creative potential of cinematic game narratives for evoking empathy for asylum seekers.
Exploring machine learning in the asylum seeker narratives in the “Refugee Status Determinations”. Measuring types of empathy response in depicting child separation by immigration enforcement officers in game engine-based cinematic narratives.


Debora Conceição Firmino De Souza (MA Thesis @DTI)
Humanizing interactions at the Border Control 
Drawing upon topics of HCI and game development, the study investigates the emotional states elicited by interactions with anthropomorphic Virtual Agents at the Border Control.


Ats Kurvet (computer graphics specialist)
Creating digital humans on a budget
The challenges and options when creating the visual component for avatars/digital humans.


Valentin Siltsenko (research assistant)
Real-time text to speech synthesis 
Synthesizing natural sounding human speech with ability to set the emotion of the speaker.


Abdallah Sham (doctoral student @DTI)
Machine learning in dyadic human – artificial agent interaction
Exploring the implementation of machine learning to training virtual human behaviour.


Ermo Säks (doctoral student @BFM)
Storytelling in Cinematic Virtual Reality: The role of cinematographic techniques in evoking immersion in virtual environments
Using practical research methods this doctoral project seeks the cinematic techniques feasible to increase the perceived immersion in Cinematic Virtual Reality (CVR) where the user’s main agency is to look around in a narrative story-based CVR drama experience that features a beginning, middle, and end.



Open for public!

Keynote at the syposium “Sci-Arts,Gaming and Cinema session”


Keynote speaker for a symposium on “Sci-arts, Gaming and Cinema”.

Following the success of our online conference #XRCOL2020, we are launching the 1st edition of the #DIMENSIONSXR2020; the state of the research and application of XR technology in sciences to be held online from October 28 to October 30, 2020.


Enactive virtuality as the common playground of cinema and game narratives

Back in 2010 when I suggested to a roomfull of game students that the relationship between cinema and games could be bidirectionally fruitful, I had to hide from the rotten tomatoes behind the podium. Indeed, cinema and videogames have a long history of mutual love and hate. My talk, however, is not about this battle, but about what is in common. Specifically, I suggest that both can be regarded as mental simulations of the world. I will adopt a cognitive science angle, talking about the sense-making of the idiosyncratic mind, reflected through the enactive mind theory of Francisco Varela and colleagues. The mind is active in the world in an embodied and situated manner, in this sense the mind enacts virtually, or simulates the world’s dynamic phenomena it wants to understand. Drawing from the combination of phenomenological inquiry and scientific evidence, I will argue that narratives are the mind’s essential means of sense-making. This applies equally for games and cinema. This leads further to interpreting the communicative role of narratives as an extension of that sense-making function to the social world. Systemicity is at the core of my enactive virtuality approach. Be it cinema, video games, books, or social media newsfeed, they can be considered as bio-cultural feedback systems continuously mediating between the idiosyncratic minds and the intersubjectively shared worlds. In this endeavour, cinema and games provide a wide range of examples for my arguments. Towards the end of the talk, I hope to engage the audience to the discussion of whether stories told, worlds imagined, and enacted upon, can empower social change for the wellbeing beyond entertainment.

Link to the Swiss Society of Virtual and Augmented Reality

Keynote at NORDICHI2020, Tallinn University 29 Oct 2020

Narrative contextualisation: Overriding the artificiality of Artificial Humane Agents 

Abstract. The recent advancements in creating humane artificial characters with seemingly self-emergent social behavior have reached the technological and artistic level that challenges the argument that bridging the uncanny abyss between the non-human and humane artificial agents is still beyond the possible. A great part of the existing research on the topic has focused on developing the social communication skills related to face-to-face interaction between human and non-human agents, such including combinations of verbal and non-verbal expressiveness. These aspects alone continue requiring extensive efforts from the scientific community, while relatively little attention has been focused on the contextual aspects of such face-to-face settings. This talk argues that the challenge of reaching a sufficient level of human-likeness of humane artificial agents, this is, the point where one would trust an artificial car dealer, or a virtual medical doctor, lies elsewhere than in the technically detailed appearance of the artificial agent. Instead, the believability of such an agent rests in the emotive-cognitive contextualization of the interaction, in order words, taking into account the implicit and explicit psychological dependencies related to the context. To tackle this issue, the research on narratives and storytelling is proposed as a framework to facilitate the endeavor of modeling contextual aspects into the adaptive interaction dynamics of an artificial character designed to elicit trustfulness and confidence in the human agent. A selection of case studies is discussed in the light of cognitive neuroscientific findings on artificial agents and narrative contextualization, particularly from the point of view of societal and medical applications.

The conference website:

Keynote at Transdisciplinarity in Science and Arts UFSM, Brazil 22 Oct 2020

Keynote speaker at The Organizing Committee of the Transdisciplinarity in Science and Arts – Capes Print Symposium at  UFSM, Brazil

20 – 22. Oct 2020
Pia Tikka
Virtuality by enaction: Imaginary worlds beyond technology

Humanlikeness is in the eye of the beholder, not in the machine. My argument is that human encounter with an artificial human relies on the mind’s simulation of human-to-human meetings, given similarly meaningful contexts. People have a cognitive drive, or tendency to anthropomorphize intentions and behaviours of humans to beings and things they interact with, be they cats, dogs, vacuum cleaner robots, or abstract geometrical shapes. Reflecting against the human individual’s own experiences, they see emotions, intentions, hidden motivations everywhere. This is the human way to create virtuality, and it comes both via individual bodily experience in life situations as well as evolution of the genre. Thanks to it, human mind is capable of reaching beyond the known physical worlds, to imagine the unimagined, as made obvious, for example, by science fiction. In my creative work of authoring narrative encounters with artificial humane characters, the concept of humanlikeness itself is assumed to be a psychological construct of the human participant. Thus, the tumblestones on the way of implementation of artificial humans may not be the limitations of the technology but rather the characteristics of the bio-cultural humans themselves. My talk concludes with a particular focus on people who are not able to go out, hug trees, play tennis, and people who are tight to their bed. For them, virtuality by enaction means engaging with other humans in technologically augmented worlds. Application of artificial humans in the social and medical fields may provide yet unseen benefits – and dangers – beyond the imaginative powers of human minds.


The symposium is being organized by the Capes-PrInt Project’s researchers belonging to six postgraduate programs1 from the Federal University of Santa Maria (UFSM, Brazil).

Invited Artist at at the exhibition of Transdisciplinarity in Science and Arts – Capes Print Symposium at  UFSM, Brazil

Pia Tikka as one of the six  invited international artist at at the exhibition of Transdisciplinarity in Science and Arts – Capes Print Symposium at  UFSM, Brazil

The  VR installation State of Darkness by Pia Tikka and the team will be presented online exhibition during 20-22. Oct 2020

The platform will be the LABART on Instagram, Facebook, Youtube and some channels of UFSM.

See LABART/UFSM links:

Página inicial

Página Inicial




Panelist at the Neuro 2.0- Futuristic Trends in NeuroTechnology – NeuroTech-X/India

Day 2: Neuro 2.0- Futuristic Trends in NeuroTechnology, organised by NeuroTech-X/India

The Narrative Brain – a Neurocinematic approach
This talk discusses our neurocinematic findings on what might be characterised as the narrative brain, which both narrates and makes sense of narratives. Previous neuroimaging experiments have shown that viewers’ time-locked brain activations correlate when engaged with same narrative. In one of our fMRI studies, we identified specific story-content-related brain networks by comparing data collected from subjects viewing a film and others reading a film’s screenplay. We also studied differences in functional brain connectivity when watching a narrative drama film versus viewing a non-narrative experimental film. In yet another experiment we observed neural fingerprint patterns related to cue-based narrative sense-making during specific moments in a long feature film. Using movies as stimuli in neuroimaging experiments may serve as a practical starting point for understanding how human mind makes sense of complex everyday situations more generally. Challenges and directions for the future neurocinematics are discussed.

Sun 18 Oct 2020 5pm – 6pm Eastern European Time – Tallinn


TALKS for DAY 2 – Oct 18, 7:30pm to 11:00pm IST/ 10:00am to 1:30pm EDT/ 7:00am to 10:30am PDT

[7:45-8:00pm IST/ 10:15-10:30am EDT/ 7:15-7:30am PDT]: Neurotech in Cinema (NeuroCinematics) by Dr. Pia Tikka, Tallinn University

[8:05-8:20 PM IST/ 10:35-10:50 am EDT/ 7:35-7:50 am PDT]: Neurotech in Architecture (NeuroArchitecture) by Dr. Isabella Pasqualini, LeaV / Ecole nationale supérieure d‘architecture de Versailles ; NAAD / IUAV University of Venice.

[8:25-8:40PM IST/ 10:55-11:10am EDT/ 7:55-8:10am PDT]: Neurotech in Cognition (NeuroCog) by Dr. David Eagleman, Stanford University / Founding CEO: NeoSensory and BrainCheck

Q & A

Join us for our grand two-day webinar to explore the magical world of NeuroTechnology through six phenomenal sessions. These exciting sessions will be handled by Global speakers with great expertise in diverse aspects of Neurotechnology.


PhD seminar “Psycho-physiological studies of narrative sensemaking” 13 Oct 2020

An introductory PhD programme course offered to all PhD students across the Tallinn university will take place on Tuesdays between 14:15 and 17:45.

Schedule (may be due to changes) see the Moodle course (

September 8th – Intro – Indrek Ibrus
September 15th – Innovation in media and film industries – Indrek Ibrus
September 22nd – Core issues of media economics and management studies – Ulrike Rohn
September 29th – Media data interpretation – Andres Kõnno
October 6th – Intercultural communication in public space – Anastassia Zabrodskaja
October 13th – Psycho-physiological studies of narrative sensemaking – Pia Tikka
October 27th – Studies of visual social media – Katrin Tiidenberg
November 3rd – Audiovisual media policy studies – Andres Jõesaar
November 10th – Artistic research in film and audiovisual media – Dirk Hoyer
November 17th – Approaches to film studies – Teet Teinemaa
November 24th – Semiotic studies of media – Indrek Ibrus
December 1st – Digital media research and ethics – Katrin Tiidenberg
December 8th – Revision: Studies of audiovisual arts and media at BFM – Indrek Ibrus

CUDAN talk

Managing narrative complexity within the enactive virtuality framework


This talk introduces work conducted at the Enactive Virtuality Lab, specifically focusing on our current task of modelling enactive co-presence between humans and artificial humans within narrative immersive environments. The project builds on the enactive cognitive science approach by Francisco Varela and colleagues (1991), according to which the human body-brain system is inseparably coupled with its environment, the principle I have further adapted for the concept of enactive cinema (Tikka 2008). This approach allows describing narrative sense-making as the core function of human cognition. To open a multidisciplinary inquiry into such experience, I suggest a triadic epistemology of narrative sense-making, which allows exploring and describing the nature of human cognition and experience in a context-relative manner. This implies that while the foundation of human expressiveness lies in private embodied and situated experiences, it extends from there to two-person co-experience and further to intersubjectively shared socio-cultural phenomena. 
With regard to related artistic creativity, I have proposed the concept of second-order authorship, which allows describing the authoring process as higher-level management of interaction between two systems, that of narrative content and the participant. In the current project, second-order authorship translates to the creation and management of the systemic interaction between an artificial character and human participants in varying narrative contexts. Our practice-based experiments explore the dimensions of co-presence using techniques including facial recognition, emotion analysis, machine learning and real-time tracking of human engagement data. Triadic epistemology allows such complex data to be related to narrative sense-making and the experience of co-presence, and the dependence of this mutual relation on narrative contexts. For the purposes of societal applications we explore the experience-generating potential of such dynamics, as well as how it can be controlled by modifying either the behavior of a screen character or its narrative context.

Dr. Professor Pia Tikka is filmmaker and EU Mobilitas Pluss Top Researcher at the MEDIT Centre of Excellence, Tallinn University. Actively engaged with the film and media industry, she is a voting member of the Society for Cognitive Studies of the Moving Image and European Film Academy. As a filmmaker, she has directed two full-length feature films, several interactive new media works, enactive cinema Installation Obsession (2005), and enactive VR experience The State of Darkness (2018). The author of the monograph “Enactive Cinema: Simulatorium Eisensteinense” (2008), Tikka publishes widely on enactive media and neurocinematics studies. She holds the honorary title of Adjunct Professor of New Narrative Media at the University of Lapland. She is the leader of NeuroCine research group (2011-), and a founding member of neuroscience project aivoAALTO at the Aalto University (2010-2014). She has also contributed to the related field of neuroeconomics in the advisory board in NeuroService project at the Laurea University of Applied Sciences, funded by the Finnish Funding Agency for Innovation (2014–2015). In 2010, she visited as a Fulbright scholar at the Institute for Multimedia Literacy, University of Southern California, as well as researcher in residency in Neuroaesthetics at the Minerva Foundation, Berkeley. She has also been a Visiting Research Fellow at the Institute of Creative Technologies at De Montfort University, UK (2009-2011). During 2015-2017 she acted as the director of Crucible Studio at the Aalto University. During fall 2019, she was a visiting professor at the Creative Media and Practice Research Cluster, Hong Kong Baptist University. Currently, she leads her research project “Enactive co-presence in narrative virtual reality – a triadic interaction model” at the Enactive Virtuality Lab, Baltic Film, Media, Arts and Communication School (BFM) & Centre of Excellence in Media Innovation and Digital Culture (MEDIT), Tallinn University.


Pia Tikka CV ETIS
Students and researchers, feel free to download “Enactive Cinema: Simulatorium Eisensteinense” (Tikka 2008)