Wright, P. & McCarthy, J. Empathy and Experience in HCI. CHI 2008 Proceedings. 637-646.

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The article takes Winograd’s legendary suggestion (in 1996) for the theme for next generation of software design & HCI, i.e. ‘designing for the full range of human experience’, as a starting point and then reviews emerging UX methodologies from a viewpoint of empathy. The reasoning goes that UX is the ‘full range of human experience’ and empathy is a central concept when UX is considered. Since empathy often requires interaction (dialogue) with other people, the reviewed emerging UX methodologies are selected based on their approach on deepening the dialogue between users and designers.

The reviewed methods are ethnography, cultural probes, ethnographic vignette, scenario-based design, character driven scenarios, persona-based design, pastiche scenarios, cultural commentators, role-play and experience prototypes, and autobiographical design. Interestingly only ethnography and cultural probes are about face-to-face interaction between users and designers. In other methods, empathy happens through narratives or imagined other(s).

The article aims to describe an emerging trend or field of HCI, but the big picture is quite scattered. The approaches based on empathy seem very different and even their viewpoint towards empathy seem very different. Empathy seems to offer a very potential approach to conduct UX design and the work started in the article should and hopefully is continued. A more comprehensive analysis of empathy’s role and possibilities in UX is needed.

Posted by Petri

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