LORA V. KOYCHEVA
Technical University of Munich
Questions of scale permeate current approaches to empathy in applied human-centered work—and especially design thinking—but they have remained largely unquestioned. What is more, empathy has become an empty signifier, and empathizing is often a near-formulaic and pro-forma endeavor. To catalyze a reworking of the concept, in this paper I synthesize what has been said so far of empathy and its role in design and innovation, and I take stock of what these contributions point to. I ask: “How can we think of empathy as a scalar phenomenon and thus re-scale it in innovation?” I offer some illustrative, if unresolved, tensions with empathy I have had in my own ethnographic work with a robotics start-up, and I conclude the article with a series of provocations with the hope they will be taken up further.
Keywords: empathy, ethnography, design thinking, robotics
Article citation: 2020 EPIC Proceedings pp 243–262, ISSN 1559-8918, https://www.epicpeople.org/epic...
A researcher who used to combine “thinking + feeling” lines on a journey map found herself on the feelings frontier by widely exploring new innovations in neuroscience, psychology, and mind-body connection, alongside the resurgence in popularity of “old” ways of healing – chinese medicine, crystals, tarot cards. Through her self-ethnographic journey, she found that by stripping back ethnography from the measurable, the scientific, the business cases she rediscovered its foundational backbone to carefully tune into and interpret feelings. She redefines ethnography as about finding truth and not judging it – even the parts that don't make sense right away and asserts that believing the tiny fragments of feelings and glimmers of intuition is the future of our practice. The new science and the old wisdom revealed that feelings are the root of agency, or “the feelings we have a say in the world we live in and experience, and it is our new frontier to help people articulate...
This Pecha Kucha details how the imperative to employ visual thinking in doing ethnographic research work led to a fascination with capturing, through photography, the unguarded, natural emotions people express in their daily lives. It explores the differences in meaning behind these displays and the forcefulness of expressions captured in everyday lived situations. We, as researchers, pay attention to and interpret the words people say but often leave these emotional traces and visceral reactions undisturbed. An ongoing study of and immersion in these visible emotions formed a body of work around “emotional” landscape photography.
Bridget Monahan, is a researcher and photographer. She has worked as a design researcher for a number of product design and innovation agencies, including MAYA Design, Razorfish, and Sapient. In 2017, she started Vellichor Design to concentrate more fully on her art and writing and to work as an independent consultant in the areas...
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PechaKucha—This talk is an illustration of my journey from being a dejected, sole researcher in a chaotic 300 person startup to a place where I learned not only how to be a better interviewer, but also a more effective and influential employee.
Shipra Kayan has over a decade of experience as a User Experience professional. She has spent the last six years at Upwork helping the product and engineering teams understand user needs, and make empathy based design decisions. She lives in San Francisco, and writes on medium.
2016 Ethnographic Praxis in Industry Conference Proceedings, p. 551, ISSN 1559-8918,
by JOHN PAYNE, Moment
In the early 1970s, Nick Lowe wrote a song from the perspective of an old hippie character. This character laments change as he witnesses the cultural pendulum swing from the peace and love 60s into the hard-edged 70s. It’s not clear whether Lowe—or Elvis Costello, who later recorded the song—intended a tongue-in-cheek send-up of the character or a straight-forward critique of the times. But in the years since, “What's So Funny 'Bout Peace, Love and Understanding” has become a sort of call to action—an anthem to lost empathy.
As I walk through
This wicked world
Searchin' for light in the darkness of insanity
I ask myself
Is all hope lost?
Is there only pain and hatred, and misery?
When I read the increasingly frequent criticisms of empathy, that same cultural pendulum comes to mind. Yale Professor Paul Bloom, the architect of much of the recent anti-empathy opinion, has written critically of empathy for several years. His thesis: Empathy is a “parochial, narrow-minded” emotion that misleads...
MOLLY STEVENSGoogle, Inc.
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