Enni-Kukka Tuomala
Can We Design Our Systems With Empathy?

When we think of empathy, all sorts of gentle, effeminate imagery comes to mind. But in fact, empathy remains a vital biological element for our species to survive. Unfortunately, many of us have forgotten how to cultivate this important instinct. 

Without empathy, it would be very hard for any of us to live a productive life. In fact, we need it to collaborate and understand others. Right now in the world, there is said to be a dearth of compassion; they use the word polarisation. Some studies show that empathy among college students in North America had declined 40% between the 1970s and the 2000s. Some of that is potentially attributed to an uptick in the use of technology and its detriment to connection.
So, what does it mean to show compassion or relate to someone else’s feelings?  That forms the intellectual backdrop for Enni-Kukka Tuomala, a new and talented Finnish artist/designer based out of London who has been causing quite a stir with her unique and unorthodox projects like the Empathy Echo Chamber and Forest Empathy.

Enni-Kukka Tuomala calls this issue of lack of empathy the greatest emergency of our time. Her goal is to bring people closer together through spontaneity & discussion.  That was indeed the result here in this podcast; we crossed many terrains exploring the challenges we face as a species in a polarised world, how consumerism plays on our empathy and of course, that infamous ‘be a cunt’ game she has so wonderfully crafted.

Working all over the world, and with a range of tools. She has earned praise from many quarters for her unconventional approach. From reworking the interior environment of the Finnish parliament to creating challenging art spaces for us to interact with.

We need to have a serious rethink about how we function in private and public spaces and the rules embedded within them. It is clear if we do not, our species will face enormous adversity now and the future. We need artists and practitioners like Enni to show us a new world where meaningful exchanges are encouraged.

To see more of Enni’s work, please check out her website
Her latest work “Forest Empathy” is currently on show at the London Design Museum as part of the online exhibition “Care”.

Feature image by: Jonathan Chan