Lessons learnt from Empathy & Defamilarisation exercises.
First activity: Reflective listening.
Myself and Sally took the speaker and listener roles in turn and choose the following thought provoking topics:
– Where we would imagine ourselves in 20 years time
– Things we enjoy in life
– Things we think would make this world a better place
The topics incited some deep discussion and the prevalent emotions from this exercise were: happiness, confusion, optimism, frustration, sadness and anger (in order of the discussion topic). I felt more comfortable being the speaker as I’m generally an extroverted person and enjoy conversing with others. The key things I was mindful of as a listener were – nodding in agreeance or to show that I’m listening and paraphrasing key points Sally shared with me back to her. In terms of being a speaker, I was more aware of slowing down the pace of my conversation but I much prefer 2 way conversation than it being just me speaking and the receiver purely listening, nodding and reiterating what I said at the end. I felt it was unnatural and somewhat contrived for one person to be speaking and the other to be only listening – I feel this is not indicative of reality when we generally partake in 2 way conversation in our daily lives. However, I appreciate that for the intent for this exercise, learning how to be an active listener is critical in our ability to gain empathy towards others.
The activity of defamiliarisation was really interesting and forced me to see a very different perspective. I rarely pay much attention to my surroundings when I’m on a train or a bus so having to write all my thoughts and emotions down from watching the video was very insightful. There were many things that I would never have noticed had I not had to reflect on these situations in more detail – for example, the movements and sounds of other people at a train station and the loud engine noise of a bus. This exercise made me realise just how quickly we become familiar to various aspects and activities in our life that we rarely take a step back to see the ‘whole picture’ in action. After seeing this new perspective, I can appreciate how this would serve as a great technique in developing new insights through user testing.
I found the exercise of ‘experience modelling’ the hardest as losing your vision and relying on other senses generally takes a while to adjust (at the best of times) and being in a confined, unfamiliar room with a large group of people made using my other senses even more difficult. Nevertheless, I can understand how this type of technique would be helpful in gaining new perspectives. Going back to the context of public transport, I’ve never really paid much attention to the sounds from the train announcements and beeping of the closing doors but this activity has made me appreciate how these sounds would make a huge difference for those who are vision impaired. Unfortunately, it seems that buses on the other hand, do not cater to people with impairments to the same degree and I wonder how a blind person would be able to know what bus stop to get off at? For me, this particular exercise was the most insightful and unlocked some potential design ideas as a result of empathising with different users and seeing a new perspective.
Until next time,
-Sym
 
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