PhD research: Designing for Ambivalence

I am currently doing my doctoral studies in the Design Department at Goldsmiths College under the supervision of Professors Bill Gaver and Janis Jefferies. My practice based PhD investigates the competing discourses offered by smartphones to mothers and their young children and how experiments in design can explore the ambivalent attitudes towards the device. My research combines experimental design approaches with psychoanalytic, feminist and related perspectives on the meaning of products.

I have created a series of proposals that are critical and symbolic. They are not propositions for the commercial market. Instead, they are conversational pieces, material representations of practices involving the use of the smartphone during childcare. They invoke practices that often take place in private and I have used them to engage with participants about our complex, often ambivalent relationship with technologies in family life.  Through the discussions they have encouraged, I have been able to recognise recurrent themes such as guilt, the role of the phone at feeding times, the phone as a sort of childcare, a family member or pet, a sort of transitional object. The proposals represent the possibilities for design to expose and critique current scenarios, and to explore potentials for change.

Two grants from the EPSRC Balance Network, have allowed me to run workshops sessions as part of my research (* see links at the bottom of this page). These have enabled me to develop design led approaches that are core elements in my investigation.

I have also received a grant from the Foundation Scotland’s Fran Trust.

My work will be displayed at the Freud Museum London exhibition on Play and Psychoanalysis, from 19th July until 10th September 2017. You can see some of it here.

I will informally discuss my work at the Freud Museum on the 9th August. Here is the link to this event.

I have presented my PhD work at the CHI 2017 Doctoral Consortium in Denver, Colorado in May 2017. You can read the paper here.

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Ambivalent objects 1, 2016 (3D printed, smartphone, baby bottle): these critical artefacts represent the use of the smartphone as a form of pacifier, invoking practices that often take place in private, at times ridden with ambivalence and guilt.

 

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Ambivalent Objects 1, 2016 (3D printed, rubber, modified laptop packaging)

 

 

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Ambivalent Object 2, 2016 (acrylic, wood, bottle top, cord, smartphone): this critical artefact combines phone and feeding teat to create a pull along comfort toy. A psychoanalyst called it a ‘maternal ambivalence object’.

 

PhD models good pics

An Uncanny Pet, 2016 (Synthetic fur, phone charger, smartphone): this proposal uses the metaphor of a pet. The phone is put to sleep while it charges (snoring and with its eyes closed), making it temporarily unavailable. Sleep is a significant aspect of young children’s routines and here it represents an act of taking a break from the device’s intrusion.

You can see this artefact in video here.

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An Uncanny Pet, 2016

 

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Exploring the phone as tool/toy, 2016

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Multiple models, 2016. Cardboard, wood, phone handset, iPhone, Lego wheels, cord, cnc machined hard foam

PhD models good pics

Experimental object

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Sketch exploration. Watercolour

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Sketch exploration. Watercolour

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Sketch exploration. Watercolour

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Sketch exploration. Watercolour

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creating a collection of sketches and objects that explore the themes in my research

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Using experimental proposals for engaging with publics

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Sketch exploration. Watercolour

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Sketch exploration. Watercolour

*:

www.conversationpiecesweb.wordpress.com

www.designledexplorations.wordpress.com