Blog 1: Intro to Empathy

Where there are humans, there is emotion. Emotion can make things messy, but it is also one of the best things about life. Throughout our years, we feel so many emotions, both negative and positive (and sometimes a mixture of both). Each human has a unique life experience unlike anyone else’s. For this reason, it is imperative that we remember to empathize with other people. To me, empathy is the attempt to relate to someone by “walking in their shoes.” In other words, having a go at someone else’s life to better understand their personality and current situation. As we empathize with other people, we realize their hardships and day-to-day struggles. When we try and make their life easier with things that may aid them through their adversities, Empathic Design is born. Empathic Design is using one’s understanding of another person’s life to create something useful for them. This form of design is strategic, selfless, and essential to the world of design. I experienced the learning process of Empathic Design for the first-time last week. During class, I enjoy feeling able to discuss matters from the lecture and articles. This dialog brings views from other people in the class from different walks of life than me, so their opinions are very interesting to compare and contrast with my own. I greatly enjoyed watching the baby eat cake, and was somewhat jealous as well! As we attempted to put ourselves in his position, I was overjoyed at the mere concept of 1) having an entire cake to myself, and 2) being a small pudgy human laughing and enjoying life. If asked to design something for this baby using empathy, I would just be ecstatic. In addition, we briefly touched on the subject of dementia. This disease is one very close to my heart. My grandpa died after close to three years battling dementia, and I have been greatly impacted by this experience. This is another type of person for whom I would love to design: either the dementia-affected human, or the caretaker/family. Also, I really found interesting the website describing different people’s lives and how their respective conditions affect each new day. I liked that there was a section where they stated what they had issues with, and what current designs make their lives easier. This provides a good start for designers, and shows what the person values in a design. Sometimes, it might be good to look at ourselves and what we value in some of our own possessions. One of my most valuable objects is the sand cylinder which portrays a picture of a shell on one side, then when flipped over it reveals the message, “you are very special.” I value this item because when I was very small, I played with it for hours on end at my Great-Grandmother’s house in Paragould, AR. Each of my family members knows this object, and my dad even used to play with it when he was small as I was. It is an object of great sentiment and good memories. I am lucky to own such a thing.

Using ourselves as examples in the designing process is a good idea. After all, if we don’t appreciate our design ourselves, how can we expect someone else to? However, it is also crucial that we compare our lives to others, and try walking in other people’s shoes. In the Firefighter article, I enjoyed two things: the teamwork, and the detail. Everyone worked together so they could gain experience from a different walk of life. I thought this was neat because they were willing to broaden their empathic horizons. The detail peaked my interest because they went that extra mile to make sure their experience was as similar as possible to their target. This shows dedication and effort: two things that are essential to any mission. Similar to this, I appreciated the Kouprie article when they stated “role-playing” as an effective tool for empathy. In this approach, one acts as though they are in the situation of another: whether it be adversity-affected, a different job, being homeless, there are endless possibilities with role play. I think this is a good way to scratch the surface of understanding someone else’s life. I think I could use role play in the future to better perceive the lives of others, and be able to relate to them through design. As I mentioned earlier, the website we explored in our learning communities was very thought-provoking. I learned that there are more people living their lives with hardships than I realized. And, what’s more, they do not complain about it! They are people, and they would like to be treated “normally” in the best sense of the word. One of the women we read about had a seeing problem. She was not able to make out detail, most of her world is blurry and “pixelated,” as she put it. However, she mentioned that her independence is the thing most important to her. She did not want to be treated any differently because of her problems with eyesight. This is a perfect example of those with disabilities: they live their lives differently than some of us, but this is not necessarily a bad thing. If we think about it, we all have our own incapacities. Some of them just aren’t as obvious as others. The ways that each of us feel about different aspects in life is valid. We must recognize that validity, and apply it to ourselves and others. Empathic Design stems from the need to create, relate, and communicate for and with our fellow humans. Empathic Design makes the world more harmonious—through the design process we are humbled, and our end product helps someone else (a truly valiant deed).

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