Is the user experience of going into a court building like dying?

Last week’s New York Times Magazine features a beautiful quote and accompanying exploration of what it means to a person in a bureaucratic building.

The original quote from Elif Batuman’s (terrific!) 2017 novel The Idiot observed how going through airport security is like death. You, the person, give your precious things up, and subject yourself to this overbearing authority.

Then Sam Anderson unpacks this further — and thinks about in terms of people in public institutions.

It resonates with our user experience work in courts. When people come in to court buildings, and give their personal information and wait in ‘bureaucratic nonpluses’ — they are often dehumanized. They feel small and vulnerable, with the power of the courts and government fully visible.

Even when you come for a civil matter, and you don’t have that much on the line, the experience of being in the government office is stressful and intimidating. It’s exposing, as well.

We are trying to explore ways to dehumanize the court — with refreshments, service workers, signage, music, privacy screeners, guides, maps — any other interventions that can make the experience more human (and less like being a dead person).