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Life Portraits

Life Portraits

Death is still a taboo subject and conversations about end of life are fraught with complexity. This enquiry explores how design can support conversations about end of life. 

Project lead: Helen Fisher

Funded by: Research England

A cultural probe has been developed to facilitate activities that can be shared between family members to explore what is meaningful to an individual and to identify how they would like to be remembered. 

Upon completion of the probe, the information gathered is interpreted and developed into a bespoke piece of artwork for that individual in the form of a life portrait.  

Portraits of Care

This transnational enquiry uses the media of illustration, photography and textiles to explore narratives of ageing in the United Kingdom and Australia. Two parallel lines of enquiry have been developed.

Project team: Claire Craig, Helen Fisher, Fanke Peng

Funded by: Research England / Canberra University

One strand explores the use of self-portraiture as a mechanism through which older people can explore and express a view of ageing from the inside. The second strand presents a view of ageing from ‘the outside’, exploring what can be learned of the experience of ageing when drawing is used as phenomenology.  

This study offers an opportunity to interrogate drawing as a method in understanding the 100 year life. 

‘The act of drawing makes you look more carefully; the more closely you look, the more you see, and the more you see, the more you can draw and the more you come to understand’  

Lucy Lyons

Ethical Roadmap

Ethics are moral principles that govern the choices individuals make. They seek to resolve questions of human morality by defining concepts such as good and evil, right and wrong, virtue and vice.

Project team: Claire Craig, Helen Fisher

Funded by: EPSRC

Partners: Northumbria University (Lead) / Newcastle University / BBC / Marie Curie / CRUSE Bereavement / National Council for Palliative Care

Within the broader research context each discipline subscribes to its own ethical code. These are often manifested in frameworks, which set out expectations and behaviours that teams engaging in research are required to follow.  

As the potential of design to address societal issues and questions becomes increasingly recognized a growing number of design researchers are working in fields related to sensitive areas including research with people with dementia, research in care homes and in end of life care. Some researchers may be under-equipped to manage such complexities, which may place participants, stakeholders and researchers alike at risk in a variety of ways. These situations also necessitate engaging with frameworks and systems of governance that designers may be unfamiliar with e.g. those developed by health-care research.

This enquiry focused on the development of an ethical roadmap to support the discussion and enactment of ethical practices in design research. 

Academic disciplines operate within publicly defined ethical parameters created to support researchers through complex dilemmas. However, paradigms in interdisciplinary research, a growing focus on emancipatory and participatory methods and questions relating to an ethic of technology call for a rethinking of existing frameworks which are largely predicated on bioethics.  

This enquiry focused on the development of an ethical roadmap to support the discussion and enactment of ethical practices in design research. The resultant research-informed roadmap guides design research teams in navigating and understanding the broader ethical and moral decisions that research inevitably entails. 

#givecompassion

#givecompassion is the output of a research enquiry exploring how design can support the interactions that underpin the development of Compassionate Communities.  

Partners: Sheffcare, Public Health Sheffield

Funded by: Research England

Project lead: Helen Fisher

Early research undertaken as part of a Marie Curie funded programme identified the importance of creating mechanisms to enable individuals to share the impact that others had on their lives. The enquiry highlighted that this was a key factor in building reciprocity between individuals living in that community and a way to strengthen community bonds.  

At present #givecompassion cards are being trialed with communities across Yorkshire. These cards provide a way for individuals to express appreciation for the small acts of kindness on which compassionate communities are built. 

What a wonderful reminder that even small acts of kindness can have an overwhelming impact on someone. 

Participant

exhibition in a box

The concept of ‘The Exhibition’ is embedded within the culture of Art & Design and has a long history as a form of ‘gathering’ to prompt discourse. This research explores the role of the exhibition as a ‘theatre for conversation’ and its role and format as a research tool as well as a means of dissemination. The research draws on the value of ‘thinking with things’ as a method and central to this is the notion of exhibition as a research tool that becomes a meeting space that enables this to happen. Exhibition becomes the medium and method for data collection and creates the conduit, through which societal assumptions relating to ageing and healthcare care can be made visible, explored and challenged

Funded by : 
Higher education academy

Project team:
Paul Chamberlain
Claire Craig

Building on methods developed through a transnational project engagingaging (Chamberlain & Craig), the principles of the traditional exhibition were translated into a format that was more flexible, accessible and inclusive. ‘Exhibition in a box’ (Chamberlain & Craig) distilled the essence of the exhibition into a suitcase, a la Duchamp that could be transported to diverse environs including the home. In doing so the home was transformed into the research arena, providing individuals with a tangible prompt to scaffold conversation.

Twelve boxes were produced and distributed for use with health specialists in collaboration with older users across Europe. These boxes comprised of everyday objects, photographs and textual material defined through the user-workshops undertaken in conjunction with the earlier large-scale exhibitions in engagingaging. The objects were carefully selected to code, represent and prompt further discussion on themes that had emerged from earlier research. Key themes included mobility, hygiene, relationships, identity, communication, technology, food, art, money, recreation, safety and work and these were represented through the set of found objects that included, keys, dice, soap, pencil, watch, stone, glove, post-card, spoon. The objects could and did combine to create objective correlatives prompting and enabling participants to express emotional responses.


The real strength of the approach is the objects, ‘things’ to which individuals can relate, no matter what the culture, language or age of participant. Whilst the objects in the box remain unchanging the associations they prompt and the stories they evoke are ever changing.

Working in partnership with older people has developed a set of principles that primarily position the person as the expert and encourages choice and decision-making. Within the first phase of the research we identified and worked with four occupational therapy departments in Universities across Europe including the Hogeschool  Zuyd in the Netherlands and the Zhaw Institute in Zurich. Exhibition in a box has been utilised and evaluated during the past two years as tool for occupational therapy students in support of their engagement with the community

exhibition in a box has been utilised as a tool to engage various communities in co-creative activities across a broad range of topics

engagingaging

engagingaging was a transnational programme of research that sought to understand the needs, preferences and aspirations of older people in order to inform the design of products and systems to support independence and wellbeing in later life.

Funded by : 
British Council

Partners:
Chang Gung University, Taiwan.
University of the third Age

Project team:
Paul Chamberlain – Team lead
Claire Craig

engagingaging was a transnational programme of research that sought to understand the needs, preferences and aspirations of older people in order to inform the design of products and systems to support independence and wellbeing in later life.

‘Engagingaging was a fresh approach and broke the rules on what we normally expect from an exhibition. It dealt with some difficult and controversial issues in a friendly and accessible way’
Curator museum of Contemporary Art , Taipei, Taiwan”.

The concept of ‘The Exhibition’ is embedded within the culture of Art & Design and has a long history as a form of ‘gathering’ to prompt discourse. This research explores the role of the exhibition as a ‘theatre for conversation’ and its role and format as a research tool as well as a means of dissemination.

The research is based on the principle of engaging users through a programme of workshops, integrated with the exhibition, to illicit a better understanding of user-needs, which in turn inform design activity. The enquiry was predicated on the premise that older people offer a valued resource and asset to families, communities and society.
The starting point of the research, funded by the British Council, was a comparison of the experiences of older people living in the United Kingdom and Taiwan.

Within the exhibition a collection of furniture entitled ‘Stigmas’ embodied issues relating to the physical, cognitive and attitudinal challenges older people face in everyday life. The critical artefacts did not present solutions but posed a series of considered questions that illuminated the landscape of old age.

The engagingaging series of exhibitions has been hosted at a number of venues including: the Museum of Contemporary Art, Taipei; Building Centre, London; the Taipei Cultural Centre; and the SIA gallery, Sheffield, and underpins a collaborative project with Chang Gung University and Chang Gung Memorial Hospital, Taiwan (British Council PMI CONNECT funded).