Marion Lean

Marion Lean

Design Researcher
Design research and data experience
Royal College of Art

I am a design researcher and facilitator experienced in identifying and addressing themes which emerge as part of a research through design process; engaging design to explore other fields. And in researching for design; gathering insights and ethnographies which reveal areas that can be addressed through design intervention.

I explore methods for implementing material practices as research tools in the area of emerging technology and data experience. Themes including the feeling of being ‘reduced to numbers’ by physical activity trackers and their data; generating new approaches to discuss our relationships with immaterial concepts such as AI and the personal and emotional experiences of fibre nternet experience are addressed as information experience is reappropriated as a physical material for design.

The outcome of the research is a methodology for implementing practical material engagement in experiential research encounters including workshops, public exhibition and ethnographic study. The findings present new spaces for inquiry and new references for design research which employs material approaches and methods including prototyping and object creation, physical experience and sensory engagement and relationship building.

A long term passion for running and long-distance events has fuelled interest in addressing ways to engage people with physical activity by harnessing aspects of our existing environments and technologies- a ‘health by stealth’ approach. My research interests more broadly are health and well being, technology innovation and experience and the role of design in tech ethics as well as actual textiles, physical objects and real people- “things you can actually touch and believe!”

Available for:
  • TV interviews,
  • Radio/podcast interviews,
  • Provide media quotes,
  • Special advisor,
  • Consultancy
  • design,
  • designresearch,
  • research,
  • technology,
  • experience,
  • materials,
  • humancentered,
  • textiles,
  • london,
  • art,
  • data,
  • dataexperience,
  • workshops

With an interest in the sensory and affective implications and 'experience' of tracking oneself and interacting with the body through digital avatars or numerical representations a workshop took place with a community sports group.
Players from the Haringey Rhinos RFC tried out Heartbeat and Footfall's textile sensor systems including connected smart socks and considered alternative non screen-based, sensory data feedback systems for use on the field. A workshop took place where participants took on tasks using materials and discussed experiences and ideas about digital health products and their data. Through material interaction a session took place to consider speculative technologies using alternative sensory feedback to the typical 'screen based' displays.

The aim was to consider ways to develop methods that would allow exploration of the sensory and affective dimensions of digital health products. Given that rugby is a 'contact sport' the use of products including watches and wearable technologies is prohibited, setting a context for alternative feedback systems.

Feedback from the participants included that they enjoyed interacting with materials, some questioned if they had been doing the ‘right thing’ which is a great results as research through design practice can take varied approaches. It was appropriate that sports-people who had been playing in the field (just before the workshop) could take forward the notion of play into the workshop setting as a tool to explore issues and encourage discussion around the set themes of technology and exercise.

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A connected exercise pad made with textile sensors responds to your interaction by inviting you to experience physical activity data in a playful way; a giant marble run, to elicit a childlike feeling of wonder and satisfaction. The installation is part of research project using materials to explore the experience of systems and technologies designed to aid behaviour change.

In collaboration with intelligent textiles innovators Footfalls and Heartbeats the interactive installation proposes a felt experience of data generated by technology products designed to support wellbeing. The research suggests that digital health technologies alter the ways we perceive our bodies and explores tangible alternatives to encourage healthy behaviours. “So many devices aimed at encouraging healthy behaviours flash up persuasive messages that actually work by giving us ‘the guilt’. I wanted to create a system where the sensory experience and physicality of materials could motivate us by provoking a positive feeling in response to your physical activity”.

Designed as a research encounter to consider the sensory and affective dimensions of digital health, the exhibit follows an interactive workshop with a London sports group. Players from the Haringey Rhinos RFC tried out textile sensor systems including connected smart socks and considered alternative non screen-based, sensory data feedback systems for use on the field. The work on display at The London Design Festival 2018 is supported by the ‘Get a Move On’ network at UCL who support research to advance the design and development of innovative technologies to get people moving more.

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