episode 2 – empathy as a way of being | Elif Gokcigdem
In this episode, Dr. Elif Gokcigdem, the founder of Empathy-Building Through Museums Initiative speaks with us about how empathy can be strengthened by museums and beyond. For her, empathy is not a buzzword, but rather a way of being. Dr. Gokcigdem has a passion for helping people develop their empathy through art. In addition to the Empathy-Building Through Museums Initiative, she is the editor of two books: “Fostering Empathy Through Museums”, and “Designing for Empathy” and the chief curator/co-chair of the world’s first summit on empathy and museums with Dalai Lama.
Resources and links
[00:00:00] Nir Hindi: Hey Elif, welcome to the Artian podcast.
Elif Gokcigdem: Hi, Nir how are you?
Nir Hindi: I am great. I am great. I noticed that it is too cold now in Washington, or where are you located?
Elif Gokcigdem: Near Washington DC.
Nir Hindi: So yeah, I remember correctly. Great. Maybe before we kind of start to speak about this exciting topic of art and empathy, maybe you can introduce yourself shortly.
Elif Gokcigdem: Sure. I am Elif Gokcigdem. And I am the founder of two initiatives. One is called empathy building through museums initiative. And then the second one is organization called one organization of networks for empathy.
Nir Hindi: Great.
So, you already understand our listeners that we are going to speak about empathy and how art can foster it and maybe kind of Elif just to set the context to everyone.
What is empathy?
Elif Gokcigdem: Empathy is our ability to feel like another, it helps us to imagine what it would be like to be the other.
Nir Hindi: I figured that is a kind of [00:01:00] very nice anecdote that I do not know if most of our listeners know, but empathy, at least in its modern kind of meaning started in the world of art.
Can you elaborate on that?
Elif Gokcigdem: That is true in late 19 hundred, 1800 1890s. The word empathy came from the German word and it was first used in the context of art feeling into an inanimate object, like a, such as an artwork. And later it was translated into English in early 19 hundred as empathy, the word empathy, and it was started used in the context of feeling like another other human being. And so, our ability to connect in general.
Nir Hindi: Interesting that everyone is speak about empathy and obviously it has its own Latin Greek origin, but to think about the modern world that starts with art it is something that kind of make it very, very nice anecdote. And one of the things that I often hear is [00:02:00] that people want to develop empathy. They want to foster empathy, and I am very much interested because that is your day to day. Can empathy be taught or maybe foster or hone? What do you think?
Elif Gokcigdem: So, empathy has an evolving meaning over the last century, so to speak. And only in 1990s in Italy through an experiment, we found out that our, the, the mirror neuron neurons in our brain are where empathy or our ability to connect with another emotional level or curse. And since then, studies have been done on, how we perceive each other, how we connect and how we even interact with the artwork and all those findings suggest that empathy can be learned and almost like exercise, like a muscle like any other muscle in our bodies.
So it is usually accepted that we all come with empathy as an innate ability that we put almost like instinct, but empathy is very complex because , many [00:03:00] layers and nuances, so to make it more sophisticated and sort of gear it towards the greater good or the whole, , like not just empathy that looks like people that look like me or believe in exactly what I believe to expand it to even like animals and environment or our planet itself. It requires an exercise and science tells us that yes, we can exercise it and foster it.
Nir Hindi: Great. So, first, I really love it. What did you just say? That empathy is a skill that we can develop in later in our conversation.
I would like to hear how you do it in museums. It can be done now. I am very much interested. What attracted you to the world of empathy. How did you find yourself looking and exploring and fostering and starting an organization around empathy, writing books about empathy, what led you there?
Elif Gokcigdem: This is a very personal story. I mean, I, my background is art history and in art history, we study arts [00:04:00] psychology. In that context, we also learn about the relationship of art and empathy and, how, what the aesthetic experience is, what happens after an artwork is produced and it leaves the artist’s hands and, it is out in the world and what it generates then, what kind of reactions.
Causes in the viewer, that sort of thing. But my journey is I had a very personal experience. I had a sort of like a transcendent experience in 2006 and. After that experience. I could not see the world the same way I used to before. And the more I thought about it, the more I tried to understand and articulate it in words, everything, all sort of channels and pointed me to empathy, our ability.
To connect and imagine what it would feel like to be another, but this was not really in the context of just human beings, but like all, everything, all beings around us. So, my experience was more related to oneness, oneness of [00:05:00] all beings. And when I sort of broke it down to like smaller parts, it boiled down to a very simple ability that we each have, which is empathy, but how can we then make it more sophisticated know, expanded?
It is related to our fulfillment of our humanness in a way to be able to see the world that way, that, that offer which we are all apart. So, I thought empathy would be a great start. And since then, I have been on a journey to better understand and learn and experience and promote empathy.
Nir Hindi: Great. Great. So, I guess listers are already kind of interested to learn how you do it but be patient. And we will go into some examples one of the ways that you use suggest is using museums. And in 2016, you publish your first book, fostering empathy through museums we will add the links on our social media and the website after the show. So, you published this [00:06:00] book for studying empathy through museum. That includes. 15 case studies with clear takeaways, ideas and lessons learned by professionals in the field, how museums develop and employ empathy.
So over here, I have three steps questions. First. I want to hear why museums. Second. I want to hear how museum do it and then what we can gain from it. So, I am interested. Why do you think museums are a great place to foster hone and develop empathy?
Elif Gokcigdem: I am just going to go like one step backwards in related to the previous question, after my experience, I was filled with sort of urge to do something with what I now learned, and, but I also felt very powerless because I am an individual, I do not have big powers or, networks or anything like that, who would even listen to what I have to say.
But then I said, this is so important. I at least must be able to articulate it to my children and show them how this could [00:07:00] be done. And I said, so what do I know about in life? \\ I have studied artistry, I have studied museums and I work at a company and, all the parts that make me who I am.
I said, okay, now you have to do with what, whatever you have in hand. So that directed me to the museums. And of course, because of my background, I knew that museums and art are related, but my project is not only about art. It is a way of looking at the world. So, using objects to teach people a different way of looking at the world, through which we can find our interconnectedness and our place in this greater whole and, and Started doing my research.
I looked at all museums, including children’s museums, arts, museum science, natural history, civil rights to see if anybody has done any work on this intentionally. And what I found was that Of course. I mean, it happens, empathy happens every day. It is like this by-product of [00:08:00] our humanity. Right. But we do not necessarily articulate it pointed out that like, this is what happens, and this is empathy, and this is what you can do with it.
And I thought museums could be a great place because they are informal learning platforms. There are learning platforms, but you do not have to take a test at the end., you learn at your own pace., there is no teacher telling you know you are wrong, or you are right. You are literally like, all you must do is just slow down, take it all in reflect all the changes, the feelings and the sensations that is happening inside you in any object in front of any object.
Sort of using that objects as mirrors to understand ourselves.
Nir Hindi: In your answers already thought about few things that relates to what we try to communicate in this podcast. And as you just mentioned, you are individualized, but you did not stop you from trying. And it is kind of, eh, this.
Characteristic that I recognize among artists and entrepreneurs that you work with, what you have. It is not what we do not have. We need to take advantage of what we [00:09:00] have. And even though you are one person, you can create a change. Maybe it will not come as a wave, but there is a small one that bring another one and another one.
And maybe, hopefully we will get to the point that you organize the empathy summit with the Dalai Lama. So, it is one person that managed to do it. It is wonderful. So. You mentioned about these wider museums, but now I am very much interested in how museums are using it. And you mentioned five ways that museums can foster empathy, and I am very much interested to hear what those are five ways.
Elif Gokcigdem: Thank you. Thank you. This is very interesting because, when I started out with the book, I did not know what the outcome was going to be. I have carefully selected the case studies that lead to empathy, like the older research that is connected to what I was trying to create, the, in terms of my vision.
Well, if you are using empathy, using museums for empathy building, but I really was not sure, how people would react and whether something concrete would come out of it. And what has happened was [00:10:00] that I found that out that, most museums have been empathy in different ways, but they were not intentional about it.
And when I asked them, so yeah, this is exactly what I am talking about. Like, have you done him really look deeper into this? They were like, we never looked at it that way. It was not there. And then they taught me that, these things are all related, empathy, creativity, compassion, kindness.
So, it helps to be flexible. In our understanding of empathy and what it can be. So, at the end of the book, I was approached by this sort of newsletter and they said, Oh, you must just, send us a, like 1500 words, bloggers, something like get right up. And I was like, Oh my gosh, what do I do?
And then I said, okay, well maybe I can break it down that way. And that helps me articulate. So, anybody that these are the ways to do it, so that is what happened. And what I found is that from, from all the variety of museums [00:11:00] and within those museums from different perspectives, for example, from the curator’s perspective, from the museum directors’ perspective, from an archivist perspective or an exhibition designers’ perspective, I found out that collectively there are five ways that museums can foster empathy.
One is by just being the space for that and calendar, creating a safe space for everyone in a non-judgmental way to come in and slow down and be with themselves and what is in front of them. And this can also create a safe space for a dialogue. It could be a dialogue within yourself or with another, or the group of people.
Nir Hindi: Second, one second. Nearly if I want to ask you something. So, you mentioned the fact that museum can be a safe space. What would you recommend to a listener that go to a museum and want to use this space? What are. One or two or three questions that they need to ask themselves to be able to practice it [00:12:00] while they are in the space.
Do you have some recommendations?
Elif Gokcigdem: I do not have a really a prescription because each person is different, and we come at this at different levels. So, at the heart of it, it is all about an intention. I am intent on like building my empathy and teaching myself to look at the world in a different way where I can discover my connection to this greater unity that I am a part of.
Then I can use anything, but museums and a space, it just provides you with a destination. You can do the same thing by going out in the nature. And just observing it three or a plant growing up, or just look at a child, like it can be anything, but museums is, they are already here and now these big institutions where we can go and, with the intention is also a little bit related to rituals.
Right? You must try to get there, like something happens and then there is a conclusion, that sort of thing that helps in our learning. So that is why they are readily available, that we [00:13:00] can use them. And there are ways to do that. And, the perspective taking, and there are increasingly more courses available online and through different museums on site.
Now that everywhere is closed, but this approach is becoming more of a trend, I think, because it is known also that it leads to healing in a way. It is not just about looking at the world, but why do I have to, why do I care if I am part of something greater than myself? It, it helps. It makes, makes us feel whole.
, it makes us feel connected and it is related to healing and wellbeing too.
Nir Hindi: The first one is the fact that, that safe space, what are the other ways that we can look at museums?
Elif Gokcigdem: So, it, they can be also spaces for dialogue and counter things or people or ideas that you would not normally encounter in your everyday life.
So that is also another thing. And then you can learn through experiences in a museum. Not all museums offer this, but mostly science museums and children’s museums and [00:14:00] art museums too. They allow you to do something while you are in the museum. So, play is an important part of a learning because play is sort of like a going into play.
Are somewhat vulnerable because we do not know what the outcome and we are courageous at the same time because we want to experience it engagement. Those are all ingredients, which are the topic of the second book. So, we talked about, safe space, dialogue, experiential learning.
Nir Hindi: I think that art brings a lot of storytelling.
So how do you see it here?
Elif Gokcigdem: Exactly. So, storytelling is very important because before even writing was invented, we transferred our wisdom, our traditions, and survival techniques, through stories and, and this was all verbal and maybe through some art form also in the early humans. And again, like empathy, there is almost like an instinct, like it is inherently there that we learn.
Things, anything by [00:15:00] stories in museums are natural storytellers because they have these collections right objects. And they are all these trying to find ways to create stories around them and use the stories of the objects or the connections between them to make themselves relevant to society. Like this is what we have to offer to you.
So, this is a great opportunity for us to see how storytelling can be done and create our own stories. Make our own meaning, not just rely on what is said on a museum texts, but think, and research and make our own meaning basically. And if we say that experience to another, we are also contributing to that story of that object.
, it just goes on and on. And that maybe leads me to the fifth way of how museums can foster empathy is through contemplation. So, at the end of each of these experiences, it helps to just take the time to reflect. On an intentional, they just see, what took place, how I [00:16:00] reacted to it. It does not so much about like, in the old ways.
I mean, how I grew up, then we went to museums. It was about to learn about history or that object and the object was everything. What I am suggesting is that list, use those. To learn about ourselves, our own humanist. However, you look at things. Did I learn something surprising about that object, but about myself?
I think only then we really take those learnings to heart because they affect us personally and at an emotional level. And then we take them outside the museum walls to real life, to everyday life and see how it manifests itself. In other ways.
Nir Hindi: Yeah, you are talking about that. Then I start to reflect the research shows that most of the people spend around 20 seconds in front of the most famous paintings, including the Mona Lisa in the last few years is increased to 30 seconds.
And the reason is that people take more time to [00:17:00] take the selfie. When I am listening to you. I, I want to give our listener kind of maybe exercise it next time that you look at the painting as yourself. What surprised me? What did he tell me about myself? Because I think what is beautiful about art is that often art is open-ended so we can create our own story.
And one of the things that I always also recommend people that I speak with, do not read the text to the side, try first to understand what you see, not what the text tells you to see. You have a beautiful story about the calligraphy, which I want to hear. But before that, let us take a short break.
So Elif, we just spoke about the five ways that museums can foster empathy. We spoke about the contemplation and storytelling and learning experiences, safe space and you have one story that I really like, that you talked about. The calligraphy and how words describe the prophet. And it is an audience that is not [00:18:00] familiar to the calligraphy.
Can you share the story? I really loved it when I read it.
Elif Gokcigdem: My background is a history of Islamic art, and I have noticed that in museums, as they are looking more into empathy building, they are mostly using Western art. As entry points too. So, I felt like maybe this is something that I can investigate and see, what I, what I can come up with.
So, I was influenced by my colleague who helped me develop this idea that her experience in science of behavioral science.
uh, At the Yale center for emotional intelligence and Eliana Grossman. That time she was a graduate student there. And so, they, we collaborated, and they came up with this interesting format for approaching an artwork.
And in that format, they like what you suggested there, like do not, like read the text first, just think about the first emotional reaction. So, there are three prompts, right. Then, the first prompt [00:19:00] is just look at the art object and. Jot down your emotional reaction, whatever that may be.
And then. Each prompt reveals a little bit more information about that artwork. And at the end, it ties, everything ties into something very personal at the end, everybody in the room feels, and it is words really do not do any justice to this. You just must. Is it because it is different with every artwork?
So, I said, okay, maybe I can do something like this with the Islamic arts, but in Islamic art in general, in the traditional is diamond cards. Figure the imagery is only in book paintings, illustrated, books that are for, the sultans or the wealthy them, or the people who can read basically, and not so common in everyday life.
So, I thread Calligraphy teacher. I came across with this piece. It is a verbal portrait of the prophet Muhammad. And without saying anything about the artwork, I first posed that as an example [00:20:00] and just tell, how does it feel when you first encountered this object?
And it varies according to the audience. Some people say, Oh, I felt like it is like music, because calligraphy has that rhythm to it, and you do not really need to understand the words. It is better if you understand the words, but you do not have to, it is that kind of art form that reach at that level through, hundreds of years.
And some people say, Oh my gosh, what is this? It is a, like a propaganda or something, like, I do not want to know about this. It is interesting how people reacted emotionally.
Nir Hindi: You read it to them?
Elif Gokcigdem: No, not the first, first time I show them that the piece.
Nir Hindi: just show the letters.
Elif Gokcigdem: piece, with the, I wish I had brought it this right here next to me.
And then the second prompt is revealing a little bit more information about the object, which is. Basically, what would say normally in a museum text, like cercal, this and this, years artist’s name and a work on [00:21:00] paper with aid or something like that, it is really does not do any justice to what I am looking at.
And so, through a prompt each time as you reveal, people. People get curious. They want to know more. And that just making them a little bit frustrated through this experience, they get to articulate what they need to know and what else do I need to know? And that makes them think and know, try.
It is crazy effort and that effort they remember because they are frustrated. And so that is a part of the whole experience. It is not so much about, what the text says or, who created this object? What I feel about, why did I first feel this, like all, for example, when I looked at it or why I was so like put away with this, like, I do not want to even see those kinds of letters because they remind me of other things.
But at the end because this is a safe space. There are no judgements, and everybody can speak what is on their minds. Eventually people understand that those are [00:22:00] biases that we all come with. It is a way of our, looking at the world. Not just in this art object, just brought it to the surface.
Basically, it helped us articulate it. And at the end, I say, they are really frustrated and now they really want to know what the effects would you like to read? Would you like me to read it to you? And they said yes, already. So, I translated, I read the translation of the entire text and the, even the, the text of those types of calligraphic pieces, they are called Healea.
Are a very different way of describing a person. It is not just an ordinary verbal portrait. It is the portraiture of a character of an individual rather than a physical description, not so much about, about the, his skin color or have his hair looked like those are also mentioned, but within that cultural context, each would have meant something to tell you about something about the person’s character and values.
So, it goes deeper and deeper and deeper. So, we never really [00:23:00] go very deep, but it is just sort of like scratching the surface.
Nir Hindi: It is amazing. You are talking. And again, I am thinking, I am thinking and, it is like, I, in my world, the entrepreneurship world business world, we always think about empathy and we need to understand.
Customers, et cetera, but often customers do not know what they want, what they see in this exercise that you just mentioned, that, this this frustration that make them kind of relate to the process to try to, how can we identify this frustration? How can we tackle this frustration? How can we create this frustration to make them more engaged in the process?
So, you took it one step further and in 2019, you are. Published another book and this time designing for empathy perspective on the museum experiences.
Now you start to speak about empathy with intention. What does it mean for you? Designing for empathy? Why do you think we need to design for empathy?
[00:24:00] Elif Gokcigdem: So, what I learned from this whole experience of writing a book also presenting at conferences. And at that point I also started creating a community around this topic because everybody was intrigued, and they wanted to collaborate and know more.
Basically, we are learning together, it is not like I know everything. We are just learning together. That is the whole thing was apparent was that we were really taking this for granted. Taking empathy for granted. So, it is like the oxygen, it is very similar to what we are doing to our planet, right?
I mean, we are taking oxygen for granted. We are cutting down trees and making everywhere, concrete, and not paying attention to biodiversity and all those things until there will be a moment like we are experiencing now, like a pandemic and climate change and all those things, suddenly it comes back and finds us wherever we live.
We are each individually affected by all those things because everything is connected. I mean, it was clear that we have never really looked at [00:25:00] education. That is why we always, sort of values and know knowledge or expertise in a certain area or technical abilities and, and all those are very, very important of course, but it is equally important is that.
Are you training people about what to do with that knowledge or expertise, how to use it? Are we training people enough in a, through a worldview that that shows everyone makes them understand intellectually and emotionally that we are a part of one? So, whatever goes around comes around. So, if I am creating a project or product, or if I am, typing a social media post, it affects.
A whole bunch of things. And eventually it comes back to us, it is like the old type of wisdom. Right. What goes around, comes around. It is very true.
Nir Hindi: Yeah. It is interesting that many religions have the same concept, the karma, what goes around, comes around and it is like, yeah,
exactly. [00:26:00] So why do not we then, design.
Elif Gokcigdem: For empathy intentionally, and really investigate like how we could make this education a reality. Is it an education? Is it a facilitation? like bringing up something that is already in us, but there eventually the more we sort of invest in these types of tools and programs, like workshops, there are varying qualities of.
These experiences, right? So, we want to make sure that they are also certain standards and best practices in this field so that not everyone can come up with this, like, Oh, I am an empath I can read your mind, And so can you give me a thousand dollars and I will show you how, that is not what this is all about.
Right. We attracted a sort of unlock something within us to really like. So, help us realize our humanity humanness at the end, because the more empathy leads to compassion and kindness and altruism, and [00:27:00] the more we act. Those ways it is, it releases endorphins in our brains. So, we want to repeat, so it creates this infinite cycle.
It is like empathy, compassion, altruism, like, and that sense of fulfillment because you feel good and you want to repeat, so that is the type of cycle and there is not really reward. Nobody pats you on the shoulder. Oh, you have been empathetic today, That is not what this is about. It is not about rewards.
It is just a way of being, so to do that, I mean, that’s sort of like the ultimate vision, right? I wish, yeah.
Nir Hindi: Empathy is a way of being, I like it. I think it should be a quote. Empathy is a way of being,
Elif Gokcigdem: and so, but we need to design those environments to foster.
Nir Hindi: it. How, how do you suggest doing it? I mean, you have some ideas.
Elif Gokcigdem: Yeah. Yeah.
I mean, so going back to the research in hand, like all those contributions of all those authors and, their case studies what inspired me was to really investigate deeper in each of those, like the five ways that we discussed. [00:28:00] How, how do they come about. No, we call it storytelling, but storytelling has many components in it to have a great storytelling experience.
There are certain things in hand, and they are designed by design they are there. I mean, it could be a great movie, or it could be a really like listening to a story from your grandmother. I mean, there is this trust. There is the space, undivided attention. There’s intentionality, there’s manners. You listen, right.
You pay attention. And then there’s also vulnerability because you do not know, you just trust that person, whatever they have to say and you, because you trust and they have been a, maybe a trusted role model in your entire life, you believe, and you internalize. The, the learnings, the wisdom of the story, or the moral of the story.
So, and these are not entirely easy, like they, they are not easily available everywhere. Those of us who are [00:29:00] lucky to have been raised in those environments, in those, loving families or communities, it comes easier. For them to feel the play to know. Oh yeah, I know what I mean, what you mean?
But most of the people around the world where, people are on a survival mode daily, these things are not easy to achieve. So, empathy in that case. And it becomes a human right. Because it can lead us to fulfill our humanity. We must intentionally design those spaces for everyone can unlock the empathy in them because it leads to creativity, innovation, sense of fulfillment, compassion, all those things.
It is almost like a human right to just be able to create those platforms where everyone can come in and discover for themselves in their own pace. What, what that means for
Nir Hindi: Now that you were talking, it reminded me of well-known manager, CEO, and business manager. His name is Bob Chapman [00:30:00] and he said that.
What he learned in his business school was to manage, not to lead. And until he was not a father, he did not change his way because he started to ask himself why we treat our employees in that way. But to our children in a different way, what will happen if managers start to look at their employees like their children and they want them to succeed and they want them to feel good and they want them to fulfill themselves.
And then we will have a much better. Business working environment that occupies probably two thirds of our lives. So, for the listeners that want to do it, I want to hear from you, what would you suggest them to do when they want to design for empathy? What are your rules or suggestions that you would give?
Elif Gokcigdem: that very question in mind?
, I suggested in my second book, designing for empathy, a framework for how to design for empathy. This is just a conversation starter. As I said before, I do not claim to [00:31:00] have the prescription I am learning as I go, but I suggest that, there are, seems like three main components to empathy or empathy building and what it leads to, but at the heart of it, it is intentionality.
But even before that, we must answer the question of what is the object of our empathy? What are we trying to empathize with? what is the other. In our empathy
Nir Hindi: and that can be a human, it can be a product, it can be an animal, it can be everything.
Elif Gokcigdem: and everything, anything, but I suggest that, and I had an actual sort of an intention to bring this, include this in the conversation, is that can we empathize with our oneness, with the whole of which we are all apart?
So, I think that is like the cause that sort of encapsulates everything right. If we really fragment ours. Object of empathy. It will be many things and still they would be useful in their own way, but we [00:32:00] also must think how this would affect the whole. So, it is always good to keep in mind, how this will lead to our unity as humanity as our environment and as our planet, can we go beyond our in-groups, to empathize with those who do not look like us, who do not believe in the things that we do, who act very differently than we do, but realize that.
I do not have to agree with them necessarily because still have difference of view and opinion, but know that, there is a reason why they are there too. And everybody has a reason. Everything has a reason for existence in my belief. And so, this is where my departure, I feel like we can empathize, and we must find ways to empathize with our oneness.
So, it is not just like this person, this group of people, this product, but have that really serves our unity at the end. And that question is closely related to the filters through which we view our [00:33:00] world. So, we may perceive our world, let us say, through our intellect, through our ego. Through our heart through our brains, like everybody in the science goes on and on, but and through now, augmented reality, right?
Artificial intelligence, that is becoming its own. So, these are all filters through which we. Are sort of raised to believe that like these, this is the way to look at the world. And amongst those, like looking at the world through the heart is like the least explored because it is always the subject of these, spiritual paths and, like human development, kind of the, it was always considered like a soft thing.
Nir Hindi: In one of my talks. That I give, I speak out artistically there’s. And I use example of Steve jobs that he, he stood on stage in stage and said that Apple’s DNA is the technology and the humanities that make our heart sing. Most of the time, you do not hear a business [00:34:00] CEO stand on stage and say, my heart is singing.
Most of the time is our product is dominating. The market is superior is the best. It is like very aggressive language. And then you have people like Steve jobs saying my heart is singing and I love it. When you say that the heart is the thing that we did not, we do not explore that often. I love it. Sorry for disturbing.
Elif Gokcigdem: Yeah. Thank you.
Thank you for mentioning that. It is a beautiful, beautiful quote. I mean, heart is. Science cannot really explain heart. I mean, it can explain it well as a physical organ that pumps the blood in our body, but there is also this heart space or whatever that is, that is in our bodies. And it is sort of a, like an organ of spiritual perception.
Like the little Prince book, it probably is the failure of many people and, like most important things in life are invisible to eye, but only heart can see. So that type of thing, and we can go on and [00:35:00] on, but is important to really like putting one booklet on the table, he goes there, why are we constantly ignoring this very important aspect?
Maybe it is trying to teach us something, really like knocking on our door all the time like this, the story that this guy keeps complaining to God, God, I never win the lottery. It is like, you just buy a ticket, like just, looking into it. Right. And so that sort of thing, it is a conversation started.
Let us see how, the way, how we see the world through ours. Through the eye of our heart can relate to our intellect and our ego, our spirit or whatever, all those things that make.
Nir Hindi: If this is the first stage, like looking, what is the object, then what we should do.
Elif Gokcigdem: So that’s
next step is that I created this list of what I call the ingredients of the alchemy of empathy.
And these ingredients are more than what I have in the book, [00:36:00] because in a book format, you can only list so many, but I have, I think about 13 and these are things such as intentionality, intersectionality, proximity, storytelling, awe, and wonder, play curiosity contemplation, collective journeying, breaking bread, optimism, and hope.
And there is more, of course there’s humor, there’s humility, like all those things there’s synchronicity. These are the qualities of empathy, right? I mean, let us say in a storytelling experience. There will be. If you look at it intentionally, you will find a number of these qualities in play, in interaction with each other.
So, what I am suggesting is that let us look at them, like how they are interacting, what is taking place, because if we can articulate a name what is this happening. Then it becomes a thing that, more people can investigate it and be more intentional. And then it becomes a thing that we can then discuss, is this [00:37:00] working?
Is this not working? What are the potential and the pitfalls of this? Ingredient.
Nir Hindi: And then come the third stage, we have the object we have first stage start. What is the object? Second stage alchemy of empathy, the 13 kind of characteristics that we need to think about when we want to design.
And the most important as you mentioned, is to do it with intention and then come the third stage, which is.
Elif Gokcigdem: Which is to what end are we doing all this work? what are we really trying to do? What does this empathy can lead to? so, I mean, we know more and more every day that it can lead to innovation.
It can lead to better education to social progress, to environmental protection, those kinds of things. But. At the end. I think they are all tied to each other, all these three parts, even like, if you are just focusing on education, are we really keeping the object of our empathy in mind? In my case, it does the oneness.
[00:38:00] Are we keeping our oneness in mind? Because if you are just talking about educating and you can really empathize with a group and educate the heck out of them on a third, certain subject, but what good. Does that do that sort of thing.
Nir Hindi: Do they want it; do they need it? Why do we do it?
Elif Gokcigdem: What they will do with it, will they be able to use it for the greater good or
Nir Hindi: So Elif,
we are getting into the end of our podcast, but in our previous conversation, you said something that captured at least my attention. And you said that we need to design a compassionate technology.
And you said that the coder today is like a poet. She is the poet of our times. What do you mean?
Elif Gokcigdem: This, this was inspired by one of the contributors to designing for empathy Amir Baradaranand he uses this metaphor, which I love. So, he uses this, he writes poetry in a way that there’s AI in the middle, because I believe that, and I am not a technologist, but [00:39:00] I follow from just like a regular individual.
But I can see around me is that these technologies are increasingly, will be dominating our lives, but do they have the best intention for our humanness and our environment and our oneness in a way, can we incorporate some of these thinking into the coding? So, if you consider coding as a language, So as, poetry, right.
Is that reflection of the language. But when we read poetry, like if you read a poem from Rumi, again, our hearts may sing, right? Can we do that with AI? I mean, can we incorporate these values and essences? What does invisible to the eye into the coding? Some way that, that the result becomes a beneficial and sort of good for the, for all of us.
Nir Hindi: No, I am totally, totally with you. And I think that the movies like the social dilemma that now runs on Netflix that [00:40:00] speak about these destructive powers of technologies, just kind of a put the face and names to those phenomenon’s that we need to be much more aware in how to think about it. As you just mentioned.
And so today you have those two books, fostering empathy through museums, designing for empathy perspective on the museum experience, you started the summit for empathy. You are involved in the empathy center in Minneapolis museum.
Elif Gokcigdem: Is the advisor. Yes.
Nir Hindi: So, there are the kind of things that you are involved that we should know about.
Elif Gokcigdem: Yeah. I mean, I think, one of the highlights of this whole moment is, our meeting with the Dalai Lama. So, after the first book I received the invitation to take 30 multidisciplinary people to meet with his holiness, the Dalai Lama in India. And then I would get to create a workshop for them to.
bring those people who would normally not come together, [00:41:00] they are from different fields and different expertise levels. And to get them to play really like a sandbox, but only I could do this because, The, the reward at the end was to meet with us. They are already let us do this. And so, it was, it was a really, amazing experience and he was so inspirational and so generous with his time and his wisdom.
It has really helped us all a lot, and we still remember the moments and the learnings from our conversation with him. And now this initiative started in museums as we talk in the beginning, because my background in museums and I had to do some things, so I had to start somewhere, but my goal is to, to take it to a more interdisciplinary and cross sectors approach.
The goal is to. Be able to find enough allies so that we can create a collective innovation strategy for empathy and, set the standards and best practices, but really [00:42:00] involve all stakeholders in the process. So that we can design better tools and processes and progress, and then we can learn as we go along.
So, and so the, the, the, the latest thing is that we applied for this nonprofit organization, one organizational networks or empathy, and I am hopeful that it will allow us to really partner with different types of entities, corporations, academic institutions, individuals, and advisors, to really Expand our platform and network.
So that is more of us can provide inputs and learn.
Nir Hindi: Elif first, thank you very, very much. I am very happy that we have this conversation. We will make sure to have all those links and the initiatives the books that you mentioned in the show notes. The next time you go into meet the Dalai Lama, please count me in.
I want to join in. Thank you, our listeners, [00:43:00] we will be waiting for you on the next episode of the Artian podcast. Elif. Thank you very, very much.