Making sense design for well-being

University dissertation from Stockholm : KTH

Abstract: The theme of this dissertation is the design of IT artefactsfor increased well-being in the home. The goal has been toprovide a better understanding of the coupling between designand health, and to give examples of how to design for increasedwell-being. The context for the investigation has been thehome, and various research initiatives in smart homes andIT-supported care.We create our reality in the form of material structuressuch as buildings, products, workplaces and homes. Theseartefacts are a reflection of ourselves, we have created themand we understand ourselves through them. Together withimmaterial artefacts like political systems, educationalsystems and healthcare, they constitute our society. Thetotality of these material and immaterial artefacts forms theconditions of our everyday life. This investigation points at anew way to look at artefacts as social actors in an interactiveworld. In this perspective, use becomes a dialogue andcooperation with the artefact. Design work becomes a carefulcreative practice in which the focus is the interplay betweenthe artefact and its social environment. Stress and ill-healthis an indication that there is an unbalance in the interplay.Well-being on the other hand means that there is a balancebetween the artificial world and the individual. Designpractitioners, and others that create our world, have animportant task in designing new artefacts that do not reproduceobsolete or dysfunctional behaviour.Inspired by coping theories, a salutogenic approach todesign aims at identifying and strengthening the aspects ofartefacts that help us handle adversities. This means to createartefacts that form a world, which is comprehensible,manageable and meaningful. People that live in environmentswhere they cannot influence decisions, with high demands andlow control, are likely to become ill. But people that haveenvironments, in which they receive feedback, support and cancontrol their own situation stay well. With new, complextechnology such as ubiquitous computing, it becomes even moreimportant to support recognition and routines. And it becomesessential in domestic use and in IT-support for the disabledand elderly.The empirical work reported here consists of four casestudies related to IT artefacts for well-being. The casestudies include field studies, critical analysis, designconcepts, prototype building and evaluation. Based on thefindings in these studies, four considerations for design ofinteractive systems for the home are suggested: design forunderstanding, for detecting and managing of errors, fordisabling and for alternative coping.Finally it is suggested that if research is to concernitself not only with evaluations and general laws, but alsowith ideas and practical examples of a better future life?then design knowledge becomes an essential element inresearch. In this endeavour we need more cooperation betweenpractitioners from the social and technical sciences, thehumanities and design.