Technology, Arts and Media Program header

ATLAS 4529/5529: Empathy and Technology

Course Description

Explores questions around the role of empathy in a world where the separation between humans and our technology grows smaller every day.

Is technology destroying our ability to empathize? Are our devices and media platforms designed empathically? What changes to these platforms could lead to greater inclusion for all people? Creating tech to serve us rather than distract us? Could future AI and VR technologies be harnessed to increase empathy rather than create feelings of social isolation? What does it mean to design empathically, and why does it matter for our future?

Through lectures, readings, cultural immersion, and reflection students will become familiar with the general psychology of empathy and learn best practices to build empathy. Group work and mock debates develop skills of empathic negotiation as it relates to technology and “start-up” culture. Research focuses on case studies of technologies that have succeeded and failed in fostering empathy, reflecting on the underlying cultural frameworks. We will redesign existing and create new technologies that are more empathic, inclusive, and human-centered. Students will come away from this course with a new mentality aimed at designing technologies to serve our highest level of humanity.

Course Objectives

Students who successfully complete this course will:

Critical Thinking & Theory / History:
  • Understand the basic psychology of empathy
  • Discover best practices to build empathy
  • Observe and write reflections on the human relationship with technology as it relates to our ability to empathize
  • Question and evaluate existing cultural frameworks underlying the creation of technologies
  • Identify instances where technologies could be designed differently to be more inclusive, less addictive, and more human-centered
  • Conceive various design solutions, prototype and create selected solutions
  • Develop empathic negotiation and communication skills
  • Diverse student population will utilize a variety of technical skills (specific to their areas of expertise) to empathically design new or modify existing technologies

Credit Hours

  • 3 hours


  • ATLS 2000