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

AI & Society 29(2), 149-166

37 Pages Posted: 7 Jan 2017

See all articles by Peter Carew

Peter Carew

Waterford Institute of Technology

Larry Stapleton

Waterford Institute of Technology

Date Written: May 1, 2014

Abstract

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 empathetic and human-centered philosophy. It argues that the human-centered 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-centered 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-centered sentiments and instrumentally rational ones in systems development praxis. The paper concludes by presenting recommendations on how human-centered values can be practically fostered and engaged to enable greater empathy in contemporary system development and strengthen international stability.

Keywords: Hierarchical clustering, empathy, ethics, human-centred, principal components analysis, Q methodology, rationality, systems development

Suggested Citation

Carew, Peter and Stapleton, Larry, Towards Empathy: A Human-Centred Analysis of Rationality, Ethics and Praxis in Systems Development (May 1, 2014). AI & Society 29(2), 149-166, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2894194

Peter Carew (Contact Author)

Waterford Institute of Technology ( email )

Waterford
Ireland

Larry Stapleton

Waterford Institute of Technology ( email )

Waterford
Ireland
+353-86-8253780 (Phone)

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