A day of emotions and technology


March 22, 2016



On Monday 21 March project CEDE organised a one day end-of-project symposium at the Royal Society for the Arts in London, where the CEDE team and visiting guests discussed designing with and for empathy in digital environments.

The day started with an introduction by the project CEDE Principal Investigator Andy Hudson-Smith, who talked about how the EPSRC funded ‘Creating and Exploring Digital Empathy’ project came to be.

The first talks were by Julia Porter-Pryce and John Dixon, who represented church communities in Hackney in London and Hawkshead in Cumbria that took part in project CEDE by having the digital prayer installations in their churches. Porter-Pryce and Dixon reflected on how their very different church communities engaged with the prayer installations, and on the importance of designing artefacts and interactions that feel familiar for the intended users. The prayer installation draws on the tradition of lighting a candle while visiting a church and the look of the installation fits well in the surroundings, which helps to make the installations feel more familiar and less intimidating even to users who are not regular users of digital technology.

Paul Coulton talked about his team’s work on design fiction and building a prototype of Voight-Kampff machine for a future that ‘could be’, and neuroscientist Parashkev Nachev gave a presentation about detecting emotion and truth through passive interrogation i.e. detecting pupil dilation that displays brain’s expectations.

Phil Powell talked about empathy, psychology and economics, and he shared preliminary results from empirical work from CEDE. Powell demonstrated how emotions interact with financial decisions, how to test for unconscious bias and how money can make people behave in a self-centred way.

Panos Mavros, Kaisa Puustinen and Martin De Jode presented their work on sensing and communicating emotions. They talked through the prototypes of artefacts aiming to communicate emotions and shared causes. The prototypes included e.g. a lamp that is connected to an EEG sensing headset and changes colour according to the headset wearer’s mood, badges that are programmed to interact when they come to close proximity to each other, an empathy hat signalling with a heart beat how the wearer is feeling, and a haptic box that makes it possible for a person to feel or listen to their brain (and share it with others).

Finally, Fiddian Warman from Soda talked about his work with the National Maritime Museum’s Traveller’s Tails installation, and more generally about his experiences of creating interactive experiences in the arts and cultural sector.

The final item in the symposium was a panel discussion, chaired by Andy Hudson-Smith. The panel discussed audience questions ranging from obstacles for empathy in digital environments to the dangers of communicating private biological data openly.

There was also an exhibition of the outputs from the project, which gave the delegates a chance to try out some of the prototypes and also talk to project CEDE team.


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