How can we rely on audio-visual information?

Social and legal impacts

Audio-visual information like videos and audio recordings are particularly relevant to modern society. They are highly accessible, compelling, and easily shared with others. Videos use clever techniques that don't depend as much on verbal skills of persuasion. 

Videos are also easy to watch. Unlike written information, they don't require much time or mental energy. They can be effective across languages and across reading levels. They immediately communicate a perfect mental picture to the consumer than any written description might hope to achieve.

Besides all this, they are particularly compelling to our animal brains. The things we see and hear happening in worlds we recognise have a lingering impact on our beliefs and behaviours. We are more inclined to believe in the truth of things which we observe "with our own eyes and ears".

In this way, audio-visual information is a key player in shaping the way we think and act. Today, we are producing and consuming more of it than ever before. At the same time, contemporary audio-visual effects technologies now allow for the creation and manipulation of information in challenging ways never before encountered.

They can be used to put words in people’s mouths, portray people doing things they never did, copy their faces and voices, or even create entirely new faces and voices that appear thoroughly human.

This study will consider the wide-ranging social, legal and policy issues arising. They will also fundamentally change the way we trust and interact with one another and media. 

We will develop and communicate our understanding of these technologies so that we can identify and explore the range of legal and social issues they present.

This is an important and rapidly emerging area where technology, society and the law collide. We will share our findings as our research progresses and can't wait to discuss it with you.  


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We want to sustainably define an area of policy and research that will encourage innovation as well as produce good social policy. 

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Chris Milk gave a compelling talk on virtual reality and empathy.  



Tom picture.jpg


Tom Barraclough

Tom has an enduring interest in complex legal and philosophical questions. He graduated in 2013 with BA/LLB(Hons) and his Honours dissertation asked whether the personhood of the Whanganui river was an example of the rights of nature in New Zealand. He found that "the rights of nature" as fully articulated were already reflected in existing domestic legislation and that international commentators were overlooking questions of property and Māori sovereignty under te Tiriti o Waitangi. His primary interest since 2013 has been the interaction between law and policy in New Zealand's accident compensation (or personal injury) system and how to communicate that research to the public. He has been closely involved in work by Warren Forster and Acclaim Otago, including a shadow report to the United Nations Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and culminating in an independent review of his work by Miriam Dean QC in 2016 with tangible recommendations as a result. He drafted a bill to implement a Personal Injury Commissioner and continues to advocate for this proposal. Since then he has been increasingly involved in policy discussions, including as a member of the ACC Scheme Advisory Panel. He has a passion for learning, communication, strategy and research impact. He hopes this will go very nicely with a lifelong fascination for the potential of emerging technologies.  



University of Otago
Bachelor of Arts
Bachelor of Laws (Hons)

Activities & Affiliations

  • Director, Brainbox Limited

  • Affiliate Research Fellow, University of Otago Faculty of Law

  • Member, ACC Scheme Advisory Panel (ACC and MBIE)

  • Affiliate, Centre for Law and Policy in Emerging Technologies

  • Director, Infinite Mystery Limited, boutique policy consultancy

  • Chair, AI Forum New Zealand Working Group on Law, Ethics and Society


Notable publications

Warren Forster, Tom Barraclough, Tiho Mijatov, “Solving the Problem: Causation, transparency and access to justice in New Zealand’s personal injury system”, 22 May 2017

Tiho Mijatov, Tom Barraclough, Warren Forster “The Idea of Access to Justice: Reflections on New Zealand’s Accident Compensation (or Personal Injury) System” (2016) 33 Windsor Yearbook of Access to Justice 197

Tiho Mijatov, Warren Forster, Tom Barraclough “Problems with access to law in personal injury disputes” (2016) 27 NZULR 365

Acclaim Otago Inc, “Understanding the problem: an analysis of ACC appeals processes to identify barriers to access to justice for injured New Zealanders”, 9 July 2015

Acclaim Otago Inc and Forster and Associates Ltd “The costs of paradigm change: access to justice for people with disabilities caused by personal injury in New Zealand”, 24 July 2014, shadow report to UN Committee on the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities

Thomas Barraclough “How far can the Te Awa Tupua (Whanganui River) proposal be said to reflect the rights of nature in New Zealand?” (2013) OYLR




Curtis Barnes

Curtis discovered his research passions in the pages of prescient science fiction by authors like Philip K. Dick, Isaac Asimov and Robert Heinlein. He synthesised his philosophical and legal interests and received a Master of Laws with Distinction in December of 2017. His thesis examined the legal implications of morally significant machines. He deeply explored the "Robot Rights" question, considering how particular artificial intelligence paradigms might produce a moral patient and the implications of such an entity on existing legal and social institutions. He urged caution and an ethical obligation to prevent the creation of machines to which we owe moral consideration or legal recognition. He has previously been a researcher for projects examining the intersection of medicine and law, the rights of persons with disabilities, and access to justice in the New Zealand Accident Compensation Scheme. Curtis views uninhibited thought, expression, imagination and and broad learning as key tools for understanding complex questions. He sees emerging technologies, particular artificial intelligence, as providing foils and insights to our legal and moral theory.




University of Otago
Bachelor of Laws
Master of Laws (Distinction)


Curtis Reid Barnes, “Law and ethics in morally significant machines : the case for pre-emptive prevention” (2017) University of Otago.


Activities & Affiliations

  • Director, Brainbox Limited

  • Chair, AI Forum New Zealand Working Group on Law, Ethics and Society

  • Research Affiliate, Centre for Artificial Intelligence and Public Policy

  • Affiliate, Centre for Law and Policy in Emerging Technologies

  • Affiliate Research Fellow, University of Otago Faculty of Law

  • Director, Gordian Limited, regulatory consulting for medical practices and practitioners