A report by Floor Fiers

Age of Wonderland
Jan 29, 2018 · 4 min read

The ambiguity of empathy, never ending conversation

Empathy is another broad theme perfect for an exploration of a Daily Age of Wonderland talks. While empathy generally refers to the ability to place yourself in someone else’s shoes, the reasoning behind and interpretations of sympathy might be different for different human beings around the world. Together with a small group of designers, Arne Hendriks and Christine Wagner try dismantle the ambiguity of empathy.

Today, three students of the Design Academy Eindhoven are present at the talk show. The first one is Vivien Tauchmann, who is a master student of the program Social Design. She is interested in how empathy can be found through movement of the human body. Second guest is Jeffe van Holle, who is a former intern of a Chilean Age of Wonderland fellow, Paz Bernaldo. After Jeffe’s captivating story about his experience in the desert of Chile, Darunee Terdtoontayeedej spoke about her plans for her pancake workshop later today. Adelaide Tam, our last guest and master student of the Man and Food program at the Dutch Design Academy, believes in the importance of emphatic connections with animals. She leads us into a new world of seeing animals.

“The overloading impact of digital media and visuals on many personal lives makes it harder to relate to fellow human beings”

At the start of today’s talk show, Vivien wonders how good we are at empathy. Even though empathy is a widely used word, we often cannot truly relate to the other person — according to the Design Academy master student. The overloading impact of digital media and visuals on many personal lives makes it harder to relate to fellow human beings. Vivien suggests we need to deconstruction the notions of digital media and translate them into movements. Movement, from minor body language to exaggerated exercises, will encourage us to feel our own human behavior and how to relate to someone else. It’s beautiful, so argues Vivien, to embrace our movements.

Lack of security

Jeffe is a student at the Dutch Design Academy. As his internship, he travelled to the homeland of the Chilean Paz Bernaldo. Paz participated in the Age of Wonderland during the Dutch Design Week of 2016. Coming to the desert of Chile, about three hours from Santiago, was rough for Jeffe. Since he was not part of the local community, he experienced a lack of security. The emptiness of the desert and the Jeffe’s sense of tension created space for connections to be created. His project concerned defining social problems together with community members and subsequently guiding their stories. Jeffe’s time in the Chilean community became an inspiring demonstration of community bonding. Through the process, several local citizens became confident, feeling empowered to share their stories. Jeffe proudly exclaims, the project made knowledge go around.

Bonding through food

Darunee gives a workshop today, in which she intends to create a space where participants work together, communicate and learn from one another. She believes food is a universal, instinctive and almost animalistic entity that has the ability to bring people together. Darunee believes that baking a tower of pancakes will be a valuable environment to learn from another, as it forces us to connect and work together. Christine comments that a way to understand empathy is welcoming the other without want to change them. Utimately, Darunee’s pancake workshop has a similar goal.

Last guest on stage in the People’s Pavilion is Adelaide, another master student of the Man and Food program at the Dutch Design Academy. Adelaide has a rather interesting take on empathy, especially in relation to the animal world. As she values being empathic towards animals, she strongly believes we have to respect the animals. Butchering an animal should come, according to her, with rituals full of gratitude and appreciation. Upcoming Sunday 29 October, Adelaide will facilitate a workshop concerning empathy towards animals.

Even after this hour of hearing different views on empathy, the term provokes many questions. Arne’s emphasis on the ongoing aspect of this conversation feels incredibly relevant. Through discussing the topics in different lights, maybe — one day — humanity will start formulating conclusions to the conversation.


This Day of Learning was part of Age of Wonderland’s Daily Talks.
At the core of World Design Event, People’s Pavilion at Eindhoven’s Strijp-S, Age of Wonderland hosted a daily talk show. Each day focused on a specific topic: Activism, Energy, Ecology, Learning by doing, Sense of self, Community, Intimacy, Empathy and Empowerment.

visit www.ageofwonderland.nl to find out more about this program.

100 DAYS OF LEARNING

A journey from knowledge to wisdom — turning lessons into action

Age of Wonderland

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100 DAYS OF LEARNING

A journey from knowledge to wisdom — turning lessons into action

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