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...
What if I told you, that humans are not very special? That the very qualities that make us human are not pre-given features but are rather properties generated by our participation in the world at large. In this view, humans are not mere expressions of blueprints. Rather, we are shaped and fashioned in the course of our lives by many different environments. This presentation challenges the notion of agency itself through an exploration of a recent project we conducted on service robots and human interaction. I raise questions on the nature of our humanness and the idea of ‘humanity’ as a special, protected class. If we set aside humans as special and unique, we tend to then dehumanise and downscale everything that is non-human, setting the stage for our current malaise where our environment is objectified as a resource to be used up as quickly as possible. I conclude that a shared and sustainable world is one where the qualities of life are accorded to all things, human...
Social Sciences, University of Michigan-Dearborn
Agency and automation is explored through three case studies of the use of Cobots – collaborative robots – in three different auto production firms. The business challenges faced by these firms include labor shortages, quality control and reduction of waste. The Cobot solution resulted in different effects on agency through (1) agency task displacement, (2) agency enhancement and (3) agency expansion. In addition, the individual characteristics of the workplace structure also mediated the effects of Cobots on agency. In the first case (Uno Motors) Fordist technology and the presence of a union ensured that Cobots were deployed instrumentally. The second case (Duo Global Technologies) was one in which Cobots were flexibly deployed to meet changing production demands. The third case (Trio) went furthest in integrating Cobots into the production process as co-workers requiring new workplace relationships together with the potential...
Nissan Research Center, Silicon Valley CHRISTINA WASSON
University of North Texas
Researchers have long explored the desirability and benefits of industry-university collaborations and acknowledge they can be fraught with difficulties. We examine one such alliance, focused on driverless cars, a current hot topic in the public imagination and in technology design. Our collaboration began as an alliance between two anthropologists, one a professor at the University of North Texas, the other a consultant with the Nissan Research Center in Sunnyvale, California. We designed a research project for a design anthropology course that Christina Wasson taught in Fall 2014. Brigitte Jordan, at the time, was conducting an informal ethnography class for engineers and computer scientists at NRC. Our alliance had two objectives: to determine what a successful industry-university collaboration could look like when it involves ethnographic research in the high-tech sector, and to provide insights into usable ethnographic methods and...