I read a quote from the Artist Anne Truitt, on compassion and what love is. We are judgmental creatures, we are raised in judgement from an early age, always pushed into a mould of normal (you're too fat, you look pretty, you're nerdy, you're athletic) and in turn we start to judge others. It's a shorthand for getting through daily life, we surely don't have the time nor capacity to know the full life story and circumstances of your barista, or the person holding the elevator for you. Yet in many ways we do it to even the ones we consider the closest to us. To our family and loved ones.
"Unless we are very, very careful, we doom each other by holding onto images of one another based on preconceptions that are in turn based on indifference to what is other than ourselves. This indifference can be, in its extreme, a form of murder and seems to me a rather common phenomenon. We claim autonomy for ourselves and forget that in so doing we can fall into the tyranny of defining other people as we would like them to be. By focusing on what we choose to acknowledge in them, we impose an insidious control on them. I notice that I have to pay careful attention in order to listen to others with an openness that allows them to be as they are, or as they think themselves to be. The shutters of my mind habitually flip open and click shut, and these little snaps form into patterns I arrange for myself. The opposite of this inattention is love, is the honoring of others in a way that grants them the grace of their own autonomy and allows mutual discovery." -Anne Truit
It's in the fullness of being willing to accept a person more than beyond what you like about them/think you know about them, that's the harder task. In our relationships with family and significant others, it's a quick lie to think "they will always be there, they're family," or "they are important to me because they make me happy." It's pulling back the veil of perception and opening oneself to the constant living reality of another soul outside yourself.
Pull away from the lens of ego, and try to see someone for who they really are, warts and all. This is a lesson, that I think needs to be practiced mindfully and daily by myself.
As a designer this is the implicit process we hold ourselves to when we do ethnographic research. This is where we understand the context of the project we're designing for, what are the users' drives, motivations, fears, hopes, how do these myriad, sometimes contradictory facets of a personality come together and factor into the purchase, use, and understanding of a device. The great big WHY.
We are taught to observe and take in the fullness of a persons life, yet we also distill, funnel down the relevant information into a slideshow, a report book, a presentation. Is a design insight a form of judgement? Yes and no. When done poorly and on the surface, it's a statement that neglects the deeper reasons behind an action. it's a direct cause and effect and rings false because few things in life are so. At School, unfortunately some people take on this step with the gravity of a box to be checked off, "have we done research? ok lets start making concepts" without ever questioning if the research was done well.
Then how does one come to a full and rich insight? I don't have the clear answer yet myself, my theory as of the moment is thus: a carefully threaded design insight can be a snapshot of a person in situ, that gives the audience a glimpse, a vignette of that critical piece of knowledge, wrapped in a sense of place, time, and causality. It's an act of translation, performed with empathy and snap judgement held at bay, and eyes wide open.