The Empathy Bomber Backpack is a speculative object designed for the extreme activists of a near-future as an empathy-hacker, where biological contraband creates a chemical metaphor of the ‘empathy warfare’ that defines our globe today.
Let’s imagine a world where genetic home gardening and hormonal engineering is commonplace. Our story begins with a bio-hacking activist, in a northern Italian city, brewing DNA combinations, experimenting with hybrid spores that release intense doses of the hormone oxytocin. She has a plan to asphyxiate the city with empathy pollen, inducing citizens to shed their assumptions and perceive new societal truths.
She disguises the oxytocin detonating device as a backpack, a cultural camouflage for walking through the city. In a public space, she detonates the backpack, pushing a button to open a tiny window that expels a stream of spores into the nostrils of passerby. She wears a sealed mask to protect their own preconceptions from the invasive effects of empathy.
If today activists use terror to send a blunt and devastating message, the activists of tomorrow have concocted a plan to go straight to the core of their intentions, to enforce genuine understanding through extreme measures.
The Empathy Bomber Backpack is a design and performance, concepted and fabricated during The School of Machines, Making, and Make-Believe's February 2016 course on Speculative Design and Fabrication. The intensive course was held at the Torino FabLab, and shown at Casa Jasmina, Officine Arduino's experimental IoT space, in Turin, Italy.
The project was inspired by the urban atmosphere of Turin, a multicultural northern Italian city, where the vibe of the public spaces that Italians have preserved for centuries. It is a comment about Europe’s relationship with its own permeability, its complicated perspective of immigration and refugees. It often seems that the conversation is less to do with who is deserving of citizenship, but rather, who is deserving of empathy. Often acts of urban violence between clashing cultures is the result of a desperate desire to be noticed and understood, rather than an act of hate and vengeance.
This project is for the extremist, the activist, the forgotten urban-dweller of the future, who not only has more .sophisticated tools, but also has become more self-aware of their true desire: more empathy
Monique Grimord is an American interactive designer and social prototyper, with a masters in Graphic Design from SCAD, and a background in political science. She lives in São Paulo, Brazil, where she invents objects for socio-political storytelling, using design fictions as a method of cultural commentary.
Video, 01:16, 2016