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Empathy in practice

‘How will we live together?’- The question will be the subject of the 2020 Venice biennial. In the context of global sustainability, climate change, refugee crisis, widening political divides and growing economic inequalities and a world where division value of nation-state and ethnic conflict are becoming more important than the survival of humankind, how will we live together in future? The ‘together’ as human beings who now have the opportunity to connect with others across digital and real space more than ever, are becoming separated for our increasing individuality. The society, the institution, the surrounding environment encourage to be individual than together and inclusion. But we need collaborative world to face crises that require global action for us to continue living at all. And for a collaborative world, the first step is to be empathic and emergence of an empathic civilization. Everybody is born with empathy. Scientific discovered that, a baby is born with mirror neuron which is the driving force of one’s understanding and response towards the other people. But when they grow up in a society through influences of parents, peers, institutes, education system or governing systems, the other drives come through like narcissism, materialism, aggression, violence, self-interest and utilitarianism. And even though they can have great empathy, in group, but not to extend to others. So it’s not only about empathy but also about extended empathy, to who, who are not like them. And in an era of digital communication we have the real possibility to create long-distance empathy which can be extended to all. My research proposal is to define a program for kids which will drive them to practice empathy consciously and intentionally but not empathically.




Empathy is intuitive, but it also can be practice intellectually. ‘Empathy in practice’ is not we do every day consciously. As a bearer of mirror neuron, we have empathy. But in course time, the empathy drive we have, gets buried under thousands layers of other drives. And like this, when others are suffering, we still can live by. The extension of the empathic bond is the social glue to establishing a global network of millions of human beings. It’s probably not surprising that, in the globalized world, in the most developed and advanced countries, where self-expression is high, the bygone religious consciousness, with its emphasis on strict external codes, the communal bond, and a hierarchically organized command and control, is losing its hold. Religious hierarchies make less and less sense in a flat, networked-globalized world. The psychological impacts (of globalization) have been as important as the economic ones. Brought together in and ever closer embrace, we are increasingly exposed to each other in ways that without precedent. While the backlash of globalization – the xenophobia, political populism and terrorist activity – is widely reported, far less attention has been paid to the growing empathic extension, as hundreds of millions of people come in contact with diverse others. The nearly boundary-less world of the global marketplace has been accompanied by an ever more boundary-less social space whether it’s virtual or real space. Hundreds of millions of human beings have become part of a global floating diaspora, and the world itself is becoming transformed into a universal public square. It is possible for an empathic Civilization to emerge in this universal public square. Creating a place for children to practice empathy, extended empathy and long-distance empathy before any form of institutionalization and adulteration can be a way to build empathic connectivity in a society. And this foundation of building universal empathic connectivity can be an important force to run up against a rapidly accelerating entropic juggernaut in the form of climate change and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. We need to reach global empathy in time to avert this planetary collapse. And the root lies within empathy in practice.


The children is the main collaborator of this research proposal. As children has the high-learning capability, they can be the best actor to practice empathy. An empathic moment requires both intimate engagement and a measure of detachment. Empathy requires a transparent boundary between two that allows the identity of two beings to mingle in a shared mental space. And this shared mental space requires a space to present them. And the creation of boundary takes place through activities between two. As a space, the site is though define as playground, but the normative definition of a playground is unlikely applicable. The space which is selected is currently a much underused commercial space of Dhaka city. How the practice of empathy will take place in the site will be defined by the activities and the attributes that will take place there. Here the program will not be predetermined by any kind of societal forces of the present world instead they will constantly evolve with collaborations towards the future. The activities will be focus on creating intentional intimacy rather than competitive environment. They will enhance emotional intelligence rather than skills. They will develop mental flexibility than book leaning. Rather than giving them a physical reward, gratitude as expression will be a form of reward for accomplishment. The Danish school has applied ‘Klasses tid’ is a small example for teaching students empathy. And in the book ‘Working big’ is another precedent of how a child can claim a rich and easy empathy with life. The activities and their attributes that are contribute to these areas will be taken in a system to establish a complex relation among them. This complex relation among all the activities and with their attributes will form a spatial generator which will focus on empathy as mirror neuron, aesthetics and most importantly collaboration. And among the attributes, the primary one will be ‘together’. To create a complex system, Cedric Price’s generator and Lebbeus Woods’s wicked problem approach can be an influence.


The ‘functions’ in architecture are predetermined by the society and culture which encourage the people to nourish their other drives and practice the external codes of different closed groups. The evolving functions or the emerging functions are all based on the past situation. In a society where capitalism is creating useless class, neoliberalism is failing and authoritarianism is emerging, what will happen to the future of the world? A real collaborative approaches can be a chance to solve the complex problems the world is facing. So, if a program is the vessel of practicing empathy through collaborative approaches, its activities and attributes have the primary focus to enhance emotional intelligence, develop mental flexibility and create intimacy intentionally, than may be this can be a step to develop a collaborative and more resilient society. It can be an answer of ‘how we will live together in future’




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