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Empathy tech: solving problems through perspective

Empathy is a designer's best friend when thinking about which problems to solve

Lurking behind every technical product is a problem; a problem designers are attempting to solve through engineering. This fundamental principle has brought us everything from plastic cups that fit snugly in the water cooler dispenser to the lines of code that automatically sync your flight confirmation email with your Google calendar. But there's a meta-problem behind all the challenges which give rise to the objects and widgets adorning our lives: how do designers and engineers know which problems are worth solving? One strategy is to take a self-reflexive approach: solve an issue that's meaningful to you. Software developer Paul Ford designed Anxiety Box to periodically email himself sentence fragments relating to his personal anxieties. As he describes in episode 8 of Reply All, trying to repress his internal monologue of anxious thoughts only made it more powerful, so he hoped that externalising it would help him view them objectively. The spam-like formatting of the Anxiety Box's messages made it easier not to take his negative thoughts so seriously; it helped him reframe his negative self-beliefs into much more manageable (and "ridiculous") chunks. App therapy Though related to the principles of cognitive behavioural therapy, in which people try to recognise and reframe their negative thought patterns, Anxiety Box was never intended to be a clinical therapeutic treatment for large populations. ... More

Our pick of How The Light Gets In 2015: Fantasy and reality

We love big ideas at Libertine - and How The Light Gets In, the world's largest philosophy festival (also deemed "Europe's ... More

Intimacy and empathy

We’re lonely, tired and stressed out. In 2013, only 36% could pick their neighbours out of a line-up, yet we spend more time ... More

Tearjerkers and altruism

Certain films are guaranteed to bring a tear to my eye. Beaches. Steel Magnolias. The Jealous Guy scene in Look Who’s Talking Too (you may ... More

Where to unplug

1. Notes Music & Coffee 31 St Martin’s Lane; 36 Wellington Street, London. notes-uk.co.uk For coffee and tea served in handmade pots in a haven free ... More

Fairytale theatre warns against the perils of tech

In 1927's newest production, writer Susan Andrade uses the myth of the Golem - a clay man brought to life by its maker - to explore technology, agency and influence

L: Where did the idea for Golem come from? S: We read the book by Gustav Meyrink first. I started researching the original myth of the golem, which is a Jewish myth. I was in the British library for a few weeks getting everything out that was Golem related. It's inspired so many stories - Frankenstein, for example. I kept coming back to the idea of artificial intelligence and cloning. At the same time I was seeing friends and their technology - iPhones, Facebook, Twitter - taking over more of their lives. This is a real shift in how we interact with each other. That started to seep into the show. We've made it rather dystopian - but that's not to say we think the world is going to go that way. How do you want people to react to the play? Is it a call to action or do you just want people to think about the ideas a bit more deeply? Yes, we'd like people to think about it more, but is the way to make people think really ... More

Designing spontaneity

We're Melissa Mongiat and Mouna Andraos, and together we make up Daily tous les jours, a design studio based in Montreal. We want to bring spontaneity to environments that have become associated with drudgery and routine, to reimagine the everyday as something other than just a stopgap - but as something that's magical in its own right. We love the serendipitous quality of chance encounters and unexpected connections that's made possible by the diversity of cities. We like to make the most of this through our public installations which are designed to get people interacting and ... More

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