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Title: Designing technologies for intimate care in women
Authors: De Almeida Joaquim, Teresa Alexandra
Issue Date: 2017
Publisher: Newcastle University
Abstract: Designing for intimate care remains an underexplored area of Human-Computer Interaction (HCI): while technologies for health and wellbeing might be plentiful, technologies for intimate care are limited. Intimate care is associated with personal hygiene, bodily functions and bodily products, and is a lifetime practice that requires well-defined interventions – by the self, or supported by others. With a move to experience, HCI has explored and responded to some of the concepts of intimate care in recent research, by addressing taboo and life disruptions. However, a wider understanding and conceptualization of intimate care work is missing from the broader HCI discourse on health and wellbeing, as well as a distinct framework for negotiating the design of technologies of intimate care. Addressing this space is noteworthy, within a field that designs technologies to support, enhance, and improve human life (Kannabiran et al. 2011). It is possible that this is related to uncertainty regarding the challenges that technology might bring to intimate interactions, particularly the challenges faced in practices that encompass bodywork and proximity to hidden parts of the body, and the impact of troublesome topics upon wellbeing education. The aim of this research is to enquire into the integration of digital technologies and intimate care towards the development of technologies for engagement with intimate care practices in women. I seek to investigate a methodological approach with a focus on the woman to understand the challenges of designing for and with intimate care; explore the qualities of such woman-centered approach in practice. In this thesis I present three case studies that incorporate empirical methods and new designs that I developed throughout this programme of research. These include 1) ethnographic observations of women’s health physiotherapy within a clinic to understand the components of intimate care within a professional setting; 2) a design toolkit that explores e-textiles for teaching female pelvic fitness, delivered through a series of workshops in which discussions that blended humour and laughter made it entertaining and less embarrassing to ask questions and to express curiosity about intimate bodies; 3) Labella, a probe/intimate wearable for self-learning about hidden parts of the female body and a technology which encompasses embodied interaction, that aims to contribute to breaking down the taboo of looking at oneself to help reduce the barrier of selfcare. Furthermore, Labella aims to support knowledge of the other, while exploring perceptions of esteem and reliance towards practices of care within the body. These three case studies begin to explore and offer insights on how designing for intimate care is entwined in woman-centered approaches to design. ! iv! This thesis contributes to interaction design research and outlines a framework for designing technologies for and with intimate care in women. The research highlights how intimate care pervades personal and professional settings, and its significance throughout the lifecourse. Specifically, I contribute to an underexplored area of HCI, women’s health (outside maternal health) by focusing on a woman-centered methodological approach. In doing this, I explore this approach in practice through challenging existing practices of care within women’s health and by offering novel design concepts and devices, in which I explore humour in design as a method to support learning of sensitive topics and as a tool to diminish the taboo nature of the interactions. Lastly, I propose woman-centered design as a novel form of inquiry in design practice research.
Description: PhD Thesis
Appears in Collections:School of Computing Science

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