About this project
Update: 104% Funded, still 3 days to go!!!!
Wow! Wow! WOW! This is incredible! incredible! We have passed our funding goal with still 3 days left! Thank you!! Thank you!! Thank you all so so so much!
Just over a month ago, I had no idea this project would be met with such warmth in the public domain. The people I have met through this campaign have been nothing short of amazing. I am so grateful for your help. I have learned a lot through this campaign.
It's time to focus on giving back. Once again thank you all so so much!!!!!
What did you do before writing this book?
For about 10 years, I was a computer scientist / interaction designer at MAYA Design where I last served as the Assistant Director of Engineering. Half the time, I helped fortune 500 companies design innovative products and services, and half the time I worked on both human-computer interaction and software systems research.
What's in the book?
The video at the top should give you a high-level overview. You can also preview the first 120 or so pages here:
What is the book about?
The book explores how making works (as a creative process), what it means (to make something), and why it matters (to our lives). Through this exploration it also investigates the ethics of our relationship to Computer Technology, and proposes a set of principles that can guide us toward a new direction.
Act of Making as an Act of Empathizing.
The central theme is the idea that the act of making is analogous to the act of empathizing.
Here is a short video (~6 min), which talks to this idea (you can hit the "CC" button to view subtitles in 한글, 中文, 日本語, Español, Deutsch):
The Design Process as an Empathic Conversation
The second theme is the reframing of the design process as a multi-dimensional conversation, whose goal is to empathize with all the constituents in the process, which then leads to a sense of profound resonance along the many dimensions.
Here is a short video (~6 min), which talks to this idea:
Ethics of Computer Technology
The third theme is the investigation of our relationship to making things on the computer in contrast to making things with physical materials. The idea was briefly covered on SmartPlanet.
Here is a short video (~4.5 min), which talks to this idea:
Facilitating an Empathic Conversation
The final theme is exploring the necessary and sufficient conditions that can help us design a space that facilitates an empathic conversation.
Here is a video of a talk (~50 min) I gave on that topic framed around the design of such a space with human-computer interaction as an example. This one was primarily intended for software and computer designers/programmers.
If you're a software or computer designer/programmer and ever asked yourself the question "Why am I designing software and computers?" I invite you to view the video below, and I would love to hear your thoughts as well. It's a bit lengthy, so you might want to return to it when you have more time.
How long did it take to write this book?
This book is a product of 3 years worth of empirical and embodied research that spans the disciplines of computer science, fine arts, architecture, design, theatre, and modern dance.
What is an empirical and embodied research?
It's a fancy way of saying that this research was not done by reading books. If I felt it was important to understand what it means to act, I actually spent a couple years learning how to act. If I felt it was important to understand what it means to dance, I actually spent a couple years dancing. If I felt it was important to understand what it means to make physical things, I actually spent a couple years making physical things, etc... In retrospect, the very process I used to write this book is the process of empathizing.
Is the book some sort of a Biography?
No. The book does use a number of personal stories, but only because I've found that stories are one of the best ways to communicate ideas. And these are stories that talk about experiences that have lead to epiphanies, which changed my understanding of what it means to make something.
In addition to the stories, the book includes conversations I've had with an interdisciplinary group of friends (an animator, a programmer, a neuroscientist, a human-computer interaction researcher, and a theologian) surrounding these stories. The diverse perspectives that they bring to the content makes this book much more about the idea, than my own stories.
Finally, there are reflective and analytic essays that string together these stories to form a coherent model of how the various concepts introduced in the stories such as empathy, trust, humility, courage, honesty, integrity, dignity, etc... all come together, and how they inform the design process. You can think of this as the more academic and theoretical side of me wanting to make an argument about how I believe design should change, in order to have a more constructive impact on the world.
Other elements in the book include an interview with a Brown University child psychologist Dr. Lewis Lipsitt, and descriptions of projects I've carried out to explore the topic.
Will the book change in design?
There are some changes I'd like to make to the book.
Most of all, I will be rethinking the hardcover design. The black cloth and yellow stamp I have now is a placeholder. I might keep the color scheme, but the design will change.
Those that choose to get the dust jacket version will also get a newly designed dust jacket with your name incorporated into the design. You can expect the dust jacket to stand on its own as a piece of artwork.
Other than that, I will be including several new spreads for a new preface to the book. There are some other changes I will be making to the book, but they should be relatively minor.
The book currently weighs in at a little over 400 pages. With the additional materials I'd like to include, I think it'll end up at around 450 pages.
What made you write this book?
To be honest, I never intended to write a book. The book wrote me. I've heard other people say that, but I now I actually empathize with that statement.
Starting from the first day of art school, I was struck with a series of epiphanies. I think it's because it was so different from what I was used to, and also what I had expected. Then about two-thirds way through school, words started pouring out of my heart, so I just typed them out to make sure they didn't get lost.
Also, every time I finished a piece of writing, I posted it on a private blog for a small and interdisciplinary group of friends to review. What they said in response was just too interesting not to incorporate into a book.
Where can I get more info on this project?
realizingempathy.com is where it's at. This book is just one of the many outcomes of this project. Please stay tuned for more updates in the near future.
What is the poster you are offering as a reward?
The poster is titled Type in Space. It measures in at 36 in x 48 in, and looks like this:
Here is a close-up of the details:
The story behind the making of this poster is prominently featured in the book, because it was one of the experiences that changed my understanding of what it means to make something. It should make for a rather interesting accompaniment to the book.
Where does the money go?
This book is quite substantial at 400+ full-color pages, which makes it quite pricey to print at low volume. The proposed amount is actually the minimum I need to print enough books so that the cost per book falls below $50. Any profit made will go directly to taking the project to the next level of development.
This Kickstarter project is not merely a project to print a book. It is a project to build a community around the central thesis of the book thatthe act of making is analogous to the act of empathizing, that there is much value in moving away from our current infatuation with creativity, innovation, and transformation, and toward the goal of achieving a deeper understanding of who we are as human beings.
The music you heard on the video is The Way We Feel by Sound of Seventy Three on Magnatune Records.
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