Making Friends: Seven Days Toward Empathetic Avatars
As avatars become computer interfaces, it’s all too easy for users to act from a position of presumed superiority and condescension. Believing ourselves to be the only sentient being in a relationship – even with a virtual character – can lead to arrogance and indifference toward other beings, whether “real” or “virtual.”
Yet, emotions such as empathy are fundamental to human experience, influencing such basic human processes as cognition, perception, learning, communication and decision-making. Historically, however, designers, theorists and technologists have largely ignored the emotional register, which is notoriously difficult to predict, harness or contain.
This assignment is about creating a contract of caring between a user and a physical avatar. One way of approaching this assignment would be to create a situation or exchange that highlights the intense feelings we sometimes develop for inanimate objects. But remember, contracts represent an exchange of value: what would it take for these objects to develop intense feelings of empathy for us?