Rainbows and Unicorns

This talk will engage with the concept of transgression in design research through an account of ethics and politics in participatory design. It will situate my own work within the context of technology development and readiness levels, and the increasingly toothless notion of ‘user centred design’ as it becomes simultaneously subsumed by commercial drivers and appropriated by new fields of practice. I will introduce the recent project, An Internet of Soft Things, which applied and reflected on the Person-Centred Approach (PCA) as a way of doing design research with mental health service users considering near-future Internet of Things service contexts enabled by e-textile interfaces. The presentation will distinguish between key approaches to the human to be found in care services, and explains how the research team attempted to embody the Person-Centred attitude. Through an account of participants’ experience it will show how the PCA creates a valuing space for individuals to thrive, while challenging normative research expectations. It will finish with recommendations for design researchers seeking to work with mental health stakeholders, focusing on roles and relationships, power dynamics, and wider disciplinary and research expectations.

Sarah Kettley is Chair of Material and Design Innovation at the University of Edinburgh, where she also Head of the School of Design. Her research spans disciplines in order to develop design methodologies for emerging and embedded technologies. She recently led the EPSRC project, An Internet of Soft Things (IoSofT), working with Bassetlaw Mind to investigate Person-Centred and experiential design research approaches to the IoT in the mental health sector. Sarah’s doctoral study was in craft as a methodology for the development of wearable technologies, and she continues to collaborate across disciplines to deconstruct and rebuild design processes in response to new technologies.

DI T room, 1st Floor, Evolution House, EH1 2LE