How does health feel? Stretch Orchestra

Research workshop - August 2018

This workshop is a collaboration between the Royal College of Art; smart materials partner, Footfalls and Heartbeats; and a North London women’s community sports group. The aim of the event is firstly to learn from individuals how it feels to experience health data - otherwise unseen, intangible personal health information - through the use of wearable technology; secondly to inform future research into how the nature of textiles and design practice can be applied to enhance people’s understanding of their health and help motivate behavior change.

There has been a recent trend for employers providing staff with wearable health technologies such as fitness trackers to log steps, combined with incentives and rewards relating to their use. This means increasing numbers of people have access to these technologies and personal health data, but how do they experience their relationship with their own health data, beyond the corporate rewards?

This workshop will explore how the use of technology such as smart materials, wearables, and the data they generate might create positive emotion and motivation for behaviour change. How do the sensory and affective dimensions of our experience of technology, and the ways in which we consume and interpret personal health information, impact behavior change? The aim is to collect insight about the feelings and emotion present when our health becomes available to us as data.

Participants will be introduced to new ways of observing and interpreting health data, collected through the use of knitted pressure sensors in movement sessions, and presented in a range of sensory formats. They will be invited to interact with their own data, and will also take part in a design thinking session to explore ways to make such data more meaningful, relevant and impactful. This will inform our understanding of what data format is relevant to whom, and our thinking about how to create meaningful design solutions using data and technology to create interventions and objects to influence our personal health decisions.

The workshop being organized by doctoral researcher, Marion Lean, Schoool of Design, Royal College of Art, with Anne Toomey, Head of Textiles, Royal College of Art, as a piece of practice-led research, towards the development of transdisciplinary working. It incorporates thinking from behavior change, textiles and Human Computer Interaction Design, and will broaden understanding about how these fields might successfully collaborate to influence industry practice and policy making around public health persuasion to increase physical activity amongst adults.

The workshop will take place in July & August 2018. Participation will be by invitation only. The organisers will be sharing some of their findings in an exhibition at the London Design Festival and across the design community via relevant networks and our website, so watch this space.

Image: interactive physical data collection device which Marion Lean showed last year