Design Placebos for the Impossibility of Empathy in Videotelephony

Empathy in the digital era receives close attention within both practice and theory. This year, humans were locked in their homes with a rise of need in digital communication such as videotelephony. In spite of the fact that videotelephony helps to reduce the physical gap through remote communication, the more digital communication enters the lives of humans, the less room there is for the sensorial interactivity that is usually associated with empathy. 

In digital societies, empathy becomes suppressed by technology, causing an empathy crisis among digital natives (Turkle 2015). Furthermore, the notion of empathy is misunderstood in the field of design (Bennett and Rosner 2019). Therefore this research looks into what interaction design’s and technology’s role be in working for and with empathy.

Starting from the researcher’s embodied experience, the study explores how an interaction designer can extend digital natives’ sense of empathy in videotelephony while imagining through the body in movement. Similar to Dunne and Raby, this investigation is not involved in assembling truths with the design objects; rather interested in the stories that people develop to explain and relate to them through design placebos (Dunne and Raby 2002). This ongoing investigation is informed by the following question: 

How might movement-based interactions extend digital natives’ sense of empathy when dealing with videotelephony?  

See the CV on the Estonian Research Information System for more: https://www.etis.ee/CV/Nesli_Hazal_Akbulut/

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