More Thesis Feedback: Translating Research into Design

Lisa thinks that I’m being too general in my inquiry. Broad themes are difficult to resolve with objects. My two primary questions, “How can design help children overcome post-disaster stress?” and, “How can design help manage survivor expectations to avoid disillusionment and extend camaraderie?” need to be broken out into a series of much smaller questions. At that level, opportunities might begin to materialize.

I also need to stop limiting myself when it comes to options. By refusing to design a teddy bear because it’s cliché and overdone, I am short-changing myself of the learning opportunity that could come from that line of inquiry. The end result might not resemble a teddy bear at all, but the inquiry will help me develop empathy.

Another approach is to forgo object-level design and consider what the post-disaster experience is currently like and design a better solution. This systems approach might result in object-level opportunities. I think I will follow this path for the scenarios critique.

Henry suggested I look at UNICEF and how they approach mobile education systems. Post-disaster, children need to re-establish routines and perhaps there is an opportunity to rethink the mobile education system. The One Laptop Per Child program connected learning to recovery. Is there a similar post-disaster social opportunity? He also suggested looking for therapy on the “new normal” in health care. That is the result of establishing a new understanding of normal after cancer or the loss of a limb. How does a person assimilate that new normal into their daily life? Are there objects that offer comfort?

There may be opportunities for objects that look forward psychologically. For children, what objects instill optimism? For adults, what objects help someone look past disillusionment and focus on reconstruction? Worldvision allows people to sponsor a child and the sponsor receives letters from the child to monitor their progress. On the other side, how does that child feel supported? How does he or she continue to feel connected to someone who cares? Are there objects that help children feel connected to others?

  1. Ed,

    Have you looked into UNICEF’s Classroom-in-a-box?
    Also suggest you read Evocative Objects. Ed. Sherry Turkle MIT Press.

    • Thanks for the suggestion. I think that’s the mobile education system he was referring to. Maybe there’s an opportunity to use that model for a broader mobile aid station.

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