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Designing for empathy in a church community

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Whilst empathy is considered an essential component of our humanity, it is arguably absent as a design consideration when creating modern communications, where the focus is often one of speed and efficiency. However, as with all design attempts to promote a particular emotion, the inherent subjectivity means that it is best explored through practice based approaches. As such, this paper presents a research through design approach to designing for empathy, as a means of identifying some of the design sensibilities required to address such a challenge. We consider how design interventions to two currently personal rituals for reflecting upon prayers and worries within a church community in London may be extended and augmented in order to allow those prayers and worries to be shared more widely within the church community. It is expected that these interventions will promote conversation and support within the community, thus generating empathy between community members. From these designs we expect to be able to draw more general understandings about designing systems for empathy.