What’s in a name? Do the names we give to projects and collaborative initiatives matter? These may seem like banal or odd questions but they are proving to be important to consider when undertaking a co-designed collaborative project; as we have found out early on in the Parlours of Wonder co-design process.
For the last two weeks Bristol University researchers, digital design partners and residents, day centre users and care staff have been coming together for co-design meetings at 3 care settings across Bristol, South Gloucestershire and North Somerset.
We all met up to discuss the initial designs for a ‘Parlour of Wonder’ that were created from our initial co-design meetings before Christmas. The responses to the initial design ideas created by Stand + Stare clearly demonstrate that the name ‘Parlour of Wonder’ is not insignificant, rather, it is a name that is far from inconsequential.
When Stand + Stare showed assembled care staff, residents and day centre users the initial designs and asked for feedback it was clear that ‘Parlours of Wonder’ conjured something quite specific in each person’s mind and how diverse these expectations were!
As a research team we were interested in ‘re-imagining the parlour for the 21st century’ – taking the idea of a ‘cabinet of curiosity’ or ‘wonder room’ but making the design of this a more inclusive process. However, for our partners, the project title ‘Parlours of Wonder’ conjures up domestic spaces circa the 1940s, for others, an image of cabaret and feather boas, whilst for some it’s a playful space crammed full of colourful stuff. We found no one was associating the project with a “modern” space.
When we introduced our initial ideas one member of the care staff team asked: “This cabinet is a modern style, but presumably you could make it look older?” This question and others like it from other care staff was very revealing about individual expectations that arise from the ‘Parlour of Wonder’ as a project title and concept.
So whilst those managers who are setting aside a room within their care setting and those gathered who use the care settings’ services seem to associate ‘Parlours of Wonder’ with something ‘old’, for ourselves and our design partners, these Parlour of Wonder spaces are not necessarily so, for both practical reasons (to accommodate the storage and use of ipads with the Story Creator app) but also related to ideas of disruptive design, where we see benefit in thinking differently about what care home spaces might look like, feel like and what they might contain within them.
These initial experiences, then, have led us all to wondering whether the name of the project is misleading and has led to expectations the design team feel they cannot fulfil. With this in mind we are all keen to see what evolves from the latest round of co-design meetings with regards to the Parlour of Wonder design itself, but also, were we to change the name of the project, what would be most suitable? …Watch this space!
Below are photos from two of our co-design meetings where the designers, Stand + Stare, are sharing their designs with residents and care staff. The colour red was a popular choice chosen from the Valchromat samples supplied by the designers, who are considering this material in order to make the cabinets to go into each Parlour of Wonder.
Since the project began in November 2016 we have been busy with team meetings at the three partner care settings located in Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucester. The aim of these meetings has been to bring together the diverse project partners: designers (Lucy and Barney Heywood), ourselves (academics at the University of Bristol), the care setting manager(s), staff, volunteers and last, but by far from least, the residents or day care visitors themselves, in order to discuss the space within each care setting most appropriate for a Parlour of Wonder.
In our informal meetings we have been keen to hear what the residents and/or day care visitors would like to see in a Parlour of Wonder and what they think one should be. Subsequently, we have been asking them many questions – some could say, too many!
This project values and prioritises the processes of co-design and co-production, meaning, quite simply, we are keen for those who are going to be the users and keepers of a Parlour of Wonder to be deeply involved in the design and production process from the start. We certainly don’t want designers and researchers coming into each care setting imposing what they think those in each care setting would like a Parlour of Wonder to be and look like! However, whilst, our co-design and co-production principles are well meant, in reality, they remain very challenging to implement and maintain (but more on this at a later date).
Barney is measuring the dimensions of the room identified for a Parlour of Wonder at a care setting in Bristol. He was grateful for a resident’s assistance in this process, whilst Lucy continued asking other residents for their ideas on how the room should be transformed into a Parlour.
So far, much of this co-design process has involved talking with residents in small groups in each care setting and asking them probing questions such as: If you had a room designed for relaxing with visitors what would it look like? What furniture would it contain? What would the walls look like? What furniture is comfortable for you? These questions will help the designers to come up with some mock-up designs that we will then take back to each care setting and ask the staff and residents/day care visitors to comment on. We are aiming to hold these meetings in late January 2017 and we’re all excited about what the designers mock-ups for a Parlour of Wonder might look like…so watch this space!
We are delighted to welcome you to the Parlours of Wonder project, which aims to co-create and co-develop a new space of discovery, connection, meaning making and mystery in three care settings across Bristol and the wider region, where older people, carers, local community members and families can connect with each other.
We hope to engage multigenerational audiences, in particular working with local schools, to bring younger people into care settings in order to connect with older people through sharing stories, objects and ideas.
This project is being led by researchers at the University of Bristol. You are most welcome to contact them and they are keen to hear from school-aged children and younger people who would like to get involved! The researchers are:
The Tangible Memories app allows you to tell stories and listen back to them in easy and accessible ways. It has been designed particularly with older people and their carers and families in mind, but can also be used by anyone.
You can create pages that combine a photo, text and an audio recording. These can be viewed within the app or printed out. When printed, the audio recording is represented by a beautiful shell illustration. The scan function within the app recognises the shell on each printed page and, as if by magic, plays back your audio.
We were delighted recently to be contacted by Emily Nelson at Scarborough Museums Trust. She wanted to talk to us about a project idea they had in which they wanted to use the Tangible Memories StoryCreator app . We were able to offer Emily advice and will continue to work with them as their project develops. It’s great to see the app being used in different parts of the country. Emily has sent the following update on their project, ‘Outside the Box’:
Scarborough Museums Trust and social housing provider Yorkshire Coast Homes are pleased to introduce the ‘Outside the Box’ project, a 12 month reminiscence project which will run monthly reminiscence sessions in 10 different community locations across Scarborough. The sessions will be a great chance for the older people in our community to socialise and meet new people, facilitated through objects from the museum’s handling collections, and the remembrance of the past. Each session will also involve young volunteers, who will be offered oral history and reminiscence training. Once funding has been secured to purchase a number of ipads, these young people will be able to use cutting edge technology, in the form of the Tangible Memories Story Creator App, as they record important oral histories from the local community. We are very excited to work alongside the Parlours of Wonder project through using and providing feedback on this wonderful app.
This pilot project, which builds on the Objects of Escape initiated during Tangible Memories, explores the therapeutic potential of cutting-edge technologies, to bring nature and natural environments into healthcare settings to enhance well-being.
Using sound and image archives from the BBC Natural History Unit, we are exploring multi-sensory and immersive experiences, such as Virtual Reality, tactile ‘Mutual Instruments’ and a rocking chair that transports the sitter to the natural world through evocative soundscapes.
This collaborative project is working alongside healthcare practitioners, families, and teenage and young adult patients at the Bristol Oncology Centre, and older people living with dementia, and their families and carers at Brunelcare’s Deerhurst home.
Helen Manchester (Social Scientist)
Kirsten Cater (Computer Scientist)
Heidi Hinder (Artist, Designer, Maker)
Steve Symons (Creative technologist and sculptor)
Esther Ingram (Archives Manager, BBC Natural History Unit)
Ailish Heneberry (Commercial and Business Manager, BBC Natural History Unit)
Sam Hume (Producer, BBC Natural History Unit)
Joe Hope (Researcher, BBC Natural History Unit)
Lesley Hobbs (Manager, Deerhurst care home)
Jamie Cargill (Lead Nurse, Teenage Cancer Trust, Teenager and Young Adults cancer service South West)
Fran Hardman (Well-being co-ordinator, Teenage Cancer Trust)
Hannah Lind (Youth Support Co-ordinator, Teenage Cancer Trust)
There has been a great sense of expectation on the Teenage and Young Adult cancer ward at the Bristol Oncology Centre, surrounding the start of our Virtual Reality trials in partnership with the BBC Natural History Unit. We have been working with Esther Ingram, Archives Project Manager, to share some of the BBC’s phenomenal natural history programming in this new context, with a new audience. Together, we are keen to find out if bringing nature into the TYA cancer ward through technology such as Virtual Reality (VR) can help to improve patients’ and supporters’ well-being during long-term hospital stays.
A group of 30 patients, relatives, friends and staff gathered over a two day period, to take part and try out the 360° immersive virtual reality experiences, often for the first time, or simply to watch these sessions in action.
There were a variety of technologies and films on offer, including the HTC Vive headset with bluetooth sensors and hand controllers for a more physically active VR experience. This was set up in the social space of the Chat Room to give people the chance to move and walk around in their virtual worlds.
Once this tech was rigged up, which takes about an hour, the VR experiences were ready to play. Patients could choose whether they wanted to immerse themselves underwater and visit a coral reef or a shipwreck, watch a Blue Whale swim past, or try and touch virtual jellyfish. These particular VR films are freely available online (cost-effective for charities like the Teenage Cancer Trust, should they wish to access them in future), and have been produced using computer generated imagery. Our teams are interested in the difference between people’s perception of ‘real’ nature (as filmed by the BBC) and digitally mediated nature through these CGI animations (produced by WEVR). Which is more effective in this context?Does it make any difference?
As we compared and contrasted versions of nature and VR, and interviewed participants about their experiences, all the volunteers became fully immersed in their virtual landscapes:
Alongside the more complex, expensive and physical HTC Vive VR kit, the BBC team set up an alternative using the Samsung Gear. This has the advantage of being completely portable, requiring only the virtual reality headset, headphones and a smart phone. As a result, we were able to share these VR experiences with patients who were unable to join in the communal Chat Room session while they were currently bed-bound and isolated in their bedrooms.
On the second day of our VR trial, the Samsung Gear headset was on offer again to the wider group and included a selection of quieter, more therapeutic nature films in VR. There was a sub-aqua diving experience in the tropical waters of Costa Rica, a jungle documentary, a 360° woodland dawn chorus and an immersive guided tour of a pre-historic dinosaur presented by David Attenborough, each lasting about five minutes. Although it’s not possible to experience virtual reality without the appropriate technology, here’s a hint of what people were watching:
Here is some of the patients’ and supporters’ feedback from their first experiences of Virtual Reality:
‘I can see [VR] being something that if you’re stressed or anxious, just pop this on and get away, to feel like you’re somewhere else – that would be when I would use it. I think that would be quite a good thing to do’. (Holly, patient)
‘I didn’t really know what to expect, then when I put it on, I was like, whoa! I’m under the sea!’ (Laura, patient)
‘You do lose yourself. You definitely lose yourself. Which is important being on this ward, and going through what the kids have got to go through. … To be honest, it just enables you to get away from this clinical environment which is paramount.’ (Suzie, parent)
‘I could just zone out completely and watch [VR] for a good hour or two or something like that. It’s so good, it’s amazing. … I’m well into it! I am ridiculously stressed out and anxious, so this has been really helpful. … This has real helped today. I’ve been mad stressed all day … so this has been real good to come and just chill out for a bit. So yeah, thank you.’ (Matt, patient)
After such positive responses, we look forward to continuing our valuable collaboration with the Teenage and Young Adult cancer service, the Teenage Cancer Trust, and the BBC Natural History Unit, for the well-being and benefit of those in long-term hospital care.