Towards Empathy: A Human-Centred Analysis of Rationality, Ethics and Praxis in Systems Development

Carew, Peter J. and Stapleton, Larry (2014) Towards Empathy: A Human-Centred Analysis of Rationality, Ethics and Praxis in Systems Development. AI & Society, 29 (2). pp. 149-166. ISSN 0951-5666

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Functionalism has long been the dominant paradigm in systems development practice. However, functionalism promotes an innate and immutable instrumental rationality that is indifferent to human values, rights, society, culture and international stability. It, in essence, lacks empathy. Although alternative paradigms have been promoted for decades in the systems development literature to help address this deficit, functionalism remains dominant. This paper reiterates the call for a fundamental paradigm shift away from myopic functionalism and towards a more empathic and human-centred philosophy. It argues that the human-centred tradition offers a philosophically compatible and mature approach that can be practically harnessed for promoting empathy in systems development. The paper investigates the potential of systems development to become truly human-centred using data originally collected as part of a multi-method critical-interpretive study of privacy in information systems development. Multiple methods are used for the data analysis presented, including principal components analysis, hierarchical clustering, Q methodology, and descriptive statistics. The multi-method analysis demonstrates a marked discreetness exists between human-centred sentiments and instrumentally rational ones in systems development praxis. The paper concludes by presenting recommendations on how human-centred values can be practically fostered and engaged to enable greater empathy in contemporary system development and strengthen international stability.

Item Type: Article
Uncontrolled Keywords: Hierarchical clustering, empathy, ethics, human-centred, principal components analysis, Q methodology, rationality, systems development.
Departments or Groups: Centre for INformation SYstems and TEchno-culture
Divisions: School of Science > Department of Computing, Maths and Physics
Depositing User: Peter Carew
Date Deposited: 03 Mar 2017 15:19
Last Modified: 08 Jan 2018 12:26

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