Filed under: Social design, Thoughts on readings, User/Human Centred Design, on empathy and values
The Birds of a Feather project on community engagement around bushfires in the Otway region has been very rewarding on many levels. I just thought I’d pop this thought here for now, stemming from a conversation that I just had with Jeremy.
Since our presentation to the CFA this week, I have been mulling over why they had found our workshop so interesting. My thinking was still caught up in the ‘novelty’ of the design methods we’ve used, such as the Playful Triggers and scenarios as a way to facilitate engagement and knowledge transfer. It is obvious that these methods, which I/designers take for granted, sounds new and interesting to others – but is that it?
Jeremy had an interesting point to make about this. He reckoned that there was something a lot deeper going on that makes what we/I do different to what the CFA does around community engagement and facilitation. He used the word ‘user-centred’, which on first hearing sounds questionable since I would’ve thought that our approach and the CFA’s approach on community engagement (in particular, the staff we spoke to) were both user-centred. He explained that perhaps we approach a context with an open, enquiry-led way that assumes nothing. We take the position that we don’t know anything, and we are here to understand and to explore possibilities. On the otherhand, the CFA are a culture of people who have expertise. Their role is to help, advise, and be an expert on ‘fire and community engagement’. He pointed out to the fundamental differences in our approach stemming from this positioning.
I then remarked that this is a very zen-like thinking. In zen philosophy, the higher you progress, the less of an expert you become. Zen philosophy is to achieve ‘mu’, or nothing-ness. One undergoes a process of ‘letting go’ the ego, possessions, facts and figures, etc.
I can be criticised and get caught in semantics, just as how zen cannot really be articulated in words. It does sound like a contradiction and a confusion, but I sense that there is something here that is core to any activity, like pedagogy, parenting, management etc. I feel that this has all been figured out thousands of years ago, with us still trying to make sense of this philosophy and seeing how it is actually ‘lived’ in our own lives – in our actions, our work, our perspective of the world.