Stretching and Using Designers’ Empathic Horizons
Authors: Joyce Thomas, Megan Strickfaden
Abstract: This paper builds upon previous research where we discovered gaps related to how empathy is understood and how the empathic horizon is characterized within design studies. First, we offer concrete definitions of empathy through various perspectives to clarify misconceptions. Second, we offer a brief historical overview of the ‘empathic horizon’, which can be traced back to the 1960s. Third, we offer a critical analysis of empathy/empathic horizons and begin to characterize what is meant by empathic horizons through the literature reviewed. Fourth, we illustrate how designers’ empathic horizons may be unintentionally and intentionally stretched. That is, we believe that each person has an empathic horizon that evolves spontaneously, is connected to personal individual embodied experiences, and evolves dynamically across their life journey. Literature shows that a person’s empathic horizon is predominantly developed unintentionally but it can be intentionally stretched or expanded, particularly when awareness is brought to the value of doing so. Fifth, we use our Jellybeans Empathic Modeling Activity that 1145 people have participated in since 2011 to flush out the definitions we’ve established. This paper contributes information not currently found in design literature by bringing together theoretical and practical definitions and characteristics about empathy and empathic horizons that are relevant to design practitioners and design educators.
Keywords: Design Education, Embodiment, Empathic Design, Empathic Modeling, Human, centered Design, Critical Analysis
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