Why design needs to start being 'humanity-centric'

it bothers me how there is such a direction for humanists to learn to code, and very little in the way of working with software engineers and programmers to help them think in more humane and ethical ways about what they’re designing


As we move well into the era of ‘the quantified you’ where everything from our sleeping patterns to our biorhythms are tracked, analysed and spat out in convenient to read reports, I wonder about the ethics of the companies monetising our every move.

In this article from Maha Bali on DMLCentral, the author focuses on a hot topic at the moment – empathy. The importance of ‘humanity’ in ‘human-centred design’. Sounds ironic – but it isn’t. So much technology around us is about making our lives easier, more efficient, more productive, more effective… but what about the culture around the development of that technology?

From the perspective of some of the world’s most renowned cultural institutions, what Antenna try to do is find the essence of a story, often from a different time and place, but sometimes from the very real world around us, and communicate it in a way which talks to the very heart of the human experience. That requires starting from a point of empathy.

Technology that starts from the point of solving a problem, or satisfying a need, leaves out the fundamental reason why we develop technology in the first place – to better ourselves.

Bali suggests that designers of tech consider “empathetic and participatory design” – I agree. This I believe, is exactly what we did when we brought in blind consultants to help us develop the Access tour at the National Palace Museum in Taiwan. Or when we worked with groups of schoolchildren to help develop the kids’ interactive multimedia tour of the Picture Gallery in Park Sanssouci in Potsdam (which recently won the German Design Award for Excellent Communications Design in Apps).

I’m all for moving “human-centric” to “humanity-centric”.

Want to know more about ’empathy’ in cultural and interpretation app design? Antenna’s own Mary Kostell will be hosting Moving Past Empathy – Calling Museum Audiences to Action at the upcoming MCN conference in Pittsburgh on November 9th

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We make audio tours, mobile apps, multimedia guides, podcasts, interactives, and superior story-driven content for the museum and cultural sector.

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