Searching for More Empathy Online and Offline


Thank you to Ms. Magazine and Carmen Rios for publishing my article:

The Virtual Search for IRL Empathy

As the days grow shorter and the wind is colder, nearly every culture has a holiday that celebrates light; over flames, many of us will tell other our stories this season. These tales can foster empathy—and, some experts hope, so can new technologies.

The Search for Empathy by Lisa Niver in Ms. Magazine

Lisa Genova’s novels make it seem possible. Her background in neuroscience allowed us a window into life with Huntington’s disease in Inside the O’Briens, autism in Love Anthony, traumatic brain injury in Left Neglected, early-onset Alzheimer’s in Still Alice and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), the fatal disease also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, in Every Note PlayedAs a doctor, Genova knows the science; as a gifted storyteller, she allows us to experience the challenges her characters face in their diagnoses.

Lisa Genova Every Note Played

Can we ever understand what others are experiencing? While reading Every Note Played, I felt that I was part of Richard’s family. In another way, Dr. Jason Jerald hopes to make that kind of feeling even easier to access.

Dr. Jason Jerald and Lisa Niver at VR with A&T Dev Labs
Dr. Jason Jerald and Lisa Niver at VR class with A&T Dev Labs

Jerald, who wrote The VR Book: Human-Centered Design for Virtual Reality, defined VR at a recent workshop that as “a computer-generated digital environment that can be experienced and interacted with as if that environment was real.” He also spoke of it as an empathy machine. “We have the opportunity,” Jerald hopes, “to create and experience new worlds and change the real world.”

Carrie Shaw began caring for her mom when she was 19 years old and her mom was diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s disease. Shaw is not alone: More than 50 million Americans and over a billion people on our planet have some type of disability, and many women become caretakers for elderly parents or family members with serious health challenges. Embodied Labs is using VR to give them critical insight into the lives of the people who rely on them.

Carrie Shaw and Lisa Niver at Google International Women's Day 2018
Carrie Shaw and Lisa Niver at Google International Women’s Day 2018

Through a new program, Embodied Labs is creating a more caring community of health helpers. They’re using virtual reality storytelling to allow people an opportunity to experience the world of the patient they are caring for. Their team now asks the question: “If healthcare providers-in-training could step into the perspectives of the patient and other members of the care team, would this make them more effective providers?” 

Carrie Shaw speaking at Google International Women's Day 2018 with Natalie Villalobos, founder of Women Techmakers
Carrie Shaw speaking at Google International Women’s Day 2018 with Natalie Villalobos, founder of Women Techmakers

Through immersive VR experiences, you can simulate a mission to fight in an aircraft or learn how to navigate a new spaceship. You can travel the world and try on shoes in different sizes, shapes and colors. But VR can also be a powerful tool for education and opening minds. Imagine the difference it would make to understand not being able to reach for the spoon to feed yourself, or not being able to see on one side of the room. Imagine putting on those shoes and stepping into someone else’s experiences.

It’s encouraging to know that empathy for others can be taught through literature and virtual reality—hopefully, all caregivers can be trained in compassionate ways so they can help their patients and our family members in ways that promote healing and tenderness. It’s also worth considering where else the impact of VR-fueled empathy could take us—and how pivotal being able to walk in women’s shoes could be in the fight to continue changing the world.


Lisa Ellen Niver is an award-winning travel expert who has been to 100 countries. Her website, We Said Go Travel, was read in 222 countries in 2017; her videos have over 2 million views on Roku, Amazon Fire TV and YouTube. Lisa has written for AARP, Sierra Club, Delta Sky, Smithsonian and Robb Report and talks travel on KTLA-TV, but you can often find her underwater SCUBA diving, in her art studio making ceramics or helping people find their next dream trip. 


Lisa Ellen Niver

Lisa Ellen Niver is an award-winning travel expert who has explored 102 countries and six continents. A graduate of the University of Pennsylvania, she worked on cruise ships for seven years and backpacked for three years in Asia. She is the founder of the website WeSaidGoTravel which is read in 235 countries and was named #3 on Rise Global’s top 1,000 Travel Blogs. Niver is represented by Chip MacGregor of MacGregor Literary, Inc. With more than 150,000 followers across social media, she has hosted Facebook Live for USA Today 10best, is verified on Twitter and listed on IMDb, and is the Social Media Manager for the Los Angeles Press Club. You can find Lisa Niver talking travel on broadcast television at KTLA TV Los Angeles, Satellite Media Tours, The Jet Set TV and Orbitz travel webisodes as well as her YouTube channel, where her WeSaidGoTravel videos have over 1.6 million views. After three months on TikTok, Instagram Reels, Facebook Reels and YouTube Shorts, she had over 500,000 (1/2 million) views. As a journalist, Niver has interviewed Deepak Chopra, Olympic medalists, and numerous bestselling authors and been invited to both the Oscars and the United Nations. She has been a judge for the Gracie Awards for the Alliance of Women in Media, and has run 15 travel competitions on her website, publishing over 2,500 writers and photographers from 75 countries. For her print and digital stories as well as her television segments, she has been awarded three Southern California Journalism Awards and two National Arts and Entertainment Journalism Awards and been a finalist twenty times.   Niver has published more than 2000 articles, in more than three dozen magazines and journals including National Geographic, Wired, Teen Vogue, HuffPost Personal, POPSUGAR, Ms. Magazine, Luxury Magazine, Smithsonian, Sierra Club, Saturday Evening Post, AARP, AAA Explorer Magazine, American Airways, Delta Sky, enRoute (Air Canada), Hemispheres, Jewish Journal, Myanmar Times, BuzzFeed, Robb Report, Scuba Diver Life, Ski Utah, Trivago, Undomesticated, USA Today, TODAY, Wharton Magazine, and Yahoo. Awards National Arts and Entertainment Journalism Awards 2021 Winner: Book Critic: Ms. Magazine “Untamed: Brave Means Living From the Inside Out” 2019 Winner: Soft News Feature for Film/TV: KTLA TV “Oscars Countdown to Gold with Lisa Niver” 2019 Finalist for: Soft News, Business/Music/Tech/Art Southern California Journalism Awards 2022 Finalist: Book Criticism 2021 Winner: Technology Reporting 2021 Finalist: Book Criticism 2020 Winner: Print Magazine Feature: Hemispheres Magazine, “Painter by the Numbers, Rembrandt” 2020 Finalist: Online Journalist of the Year, Activism Journalism, Educational Reporting, Broadcast Lifestyle Feature 2019 Finalist: Broadcast Television Lifestyle Segment for “Ogden Ski Getaway” 2018 Finalist: Science/Technology Reporting, Travel Reporting, Personality Profile 2017 Winner: Print Column “A Journey to Freedom over Three Passovers” Social Media Presence YouTube Channel: We Said Go Travel (1.6 million views) Short form video:TikTok, Instagram Reels, Facebook Reels, YouTube Shorts Twitter: lisaniver (90,000 followers) Instagram: lisaniver (24,000 followers) Pinterest: We Said Go Travel (20,000 followers and over 70,000 monthly views) Facebook: lisa.niver (5,000 followers); We Said Go Travel (3,000 followers) LinkedIn: lisaellenniver (9000 contacts)

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We Said Go Travel

We Said Go Travel