Week 22 - 6 June 2020
All the days! Never ending! I can’t keep track. But my hair’s growing back.
I’ve felt more emotionally entwined with work recently. A few flash points spring to mind:
We’ve been calling people (with their permission and compensation) to find out why they’ve finished writing their will but not paid. The reasons have been so incredibly human. For some clicking ‘purchase and send for checking’ was a real admission of their mortality. So they put it off - for weeks and weeks. We’d been worrying about something compeletly different. It was a real reminder of all the baggage that comes with writing a will.
We had a workshop (run superbly by Louis) where we considered the design of the urn which customers receive their loved one’s ashes in, along with the packaging for the urn. I’m a forgetful person, but I’ll never forget carrying my mum’s ashes (literally on my back) to Malaysia to scatter them. The weight and shape of the tube she was in is etched in my mind. I’m glad we can give such an important moment in people’s lives the attention it deserves.
We’ve been interviewing user researchers recently. A really good question lots of them ask is ‘How does the fact that people are emotionally vulnerable affect the way you run research?’. I’ve found myself returning to Clare’s answer - and I’m going to really butcher this (sorry Clare!!), but it’s something like: As a society we have decided that death is a taboo subject, which can make us ‘other’ people who are experiencing it in their lives. But that does those people a disservice, and the best we can do is offer them the opportunity to take part in research, and then really be present to learn from their experiences. From accompanying Clare on some research visits I’ve seen how positive an experience research can be for bereaved people.
I’ve also been seeing what we do through fresh eyes with Lucija, our new designer. (On a side note - it’s such a thrill to have another designer in the product team to work on tricky problems with! We spent Friday teamed up on charity dashboards and it really helped me get out of a bit of a dead end.) I guess what I’m saying is when you’ve been designing for a certain domain it becomes easy to become desensitised. The sort of design we do - where you have to design a solution that works for hundreds of people, and weigh up tech and business considerations - can have a sort of distancing effect from the real human problem in all its squishy emotional glory.
Away from work, the past few weeks have opened my eyes to how little I know about how we ended up creating a society that is systemically racist. I was shocked to realise, thinking back to my time in school, that we didn’t learn about the UKs colonial past in any meaningful depth. The Black Curriculum is aiming to change that. I encourage everyone to read up, write to their MP and consider donating if you can.
Some other things that I’ve learned a lot from:
- this video about optical allyship from Katrina Nzegwu
- this thread about the symbiosis of racism and capitalism from Boots Riley
- this article in defence of looting by Vicky Osterweil
- this book on the end of policing by Alex S. Vitale (the ebook is free)
I’ve still got a lot to learn, but I’ve come to realise that simply not being racist isn’t enough when the system is racist itself.
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