Propositional Objects as Conversation Starters

This paper discusses a project bringing together design research methods, craft practice, computer tagging and knitting to create “propositional” objects that connect people across distance, generations and paradigms. A propositional object, as defined by Walker (2003) describes an object which suggests new values, rather than new functions.

Exhibition and continued dissemination of the project described in this paper has led to conversations and collaborations with healthcare professionals in telecare in Shetland and cancer care in Dundee to explore how healthcare devices can be designed to fit more closely with people’s lives.

The paper centres around the development of the Hamefarers Kist, developed in Shetland, for island inhabitants to connect to their families who are dispersed across the globe. The Kist allows someone with no knowledge of computing or the internet to share online digital content in real-time through interaction with crafted objects. The paper will discuss the development of the Kist as a means of discussing how technology might be usefully embedded into people’s homes and lives. It will demonstrate how a combination of ethnographic methods and craft making can produce tangible artefacts around which people can begin conversations and develop a shared understanding of people’s needs and desires and the possibilities of technology in everyday life.

The paper describes the research methods used, the insights gained and how these were synthesised into a tangible object.

Keywords: craft, propositional objects, Shetland, healthcare, digital craft

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