Empathy, Technics and Language

This morning I have been thinking about the need to make empathy be the core of design and development, of connecting to people and places and of working to create a future, one community at a time. The current short version of the idea in my mind is ‘Love. Connect. Create.’ Drawing from the field of ‘design thinking’ that uses empathy, define, ideate, prototype and test as the process and connecting to the idea of creative placemaking as a way to connect people and places to each other thus applying human creativity to shape communities in partnership across sectors – community, non-profit, business and academia is a possible approach to development.

In parallel, I’ve been reading about Lewis Mumford’s ideas about the architecture, city and humanity.

‘Mumford believed that what defined humanity, what set human beings apart from other animals, was not primarily our use of tools (technology) but our use of language (symbols). He was convinced that the sharing of information and ideas amongst participants of primitive societies was completely natural to early humanity, and had obviously been the foundation of society as it became more sophisticated and complex. He had hopes for a continuation of this process of information “pooling” in the world as humanity moved into the future.’ —World Heritage Encyclopedia

The ‘sharing of information and ideas suggests of primitive societies’ points to human connection/collaboration which is certainly present in present times. This description of Mumford’s ideas makes me wonder what he would think about our use of technology and social media which connects the use of technology and language and while it is true that information is being pooled in ways of increasing complexity and language is certainly evolving in unforseen ways (writing in 140 characters, for example!).

There is an interesting, tongue-in-cheek piece by a professor Aaron Sachs from 2014 about how Mumford might have responded to contemporary realities and questions: ‘Back to the Neotechnic Future: An Online Chat With the Ghost of Lewis Mumford

Mumford’s ideas make me think that a balance of the facilities of technics and language might be a worthwhile pursuit – alongside our advanced use of technology, an advanced use of language and the thinking that informs language is critical as well.

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