Health and Wellbeing Studio: Doha, Qatar


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A presentation about the Synapse Studio and a series of Design Workshops we led at VCUQatar, Doha, culminating in a talk at the Tasmeem Doha 2011 Conference.

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Health and Wellbeing Studio: Doha, Qatar

  1. 1. Marhaba Anab Jain | Director, Co-Founder, SuperfluxFriday, 8 April 2011Marhaba everyone! (Hello in Arabic) Its a pleasure to be here at VCUQatar, and I’d like tothank Line, Muneera and Pornprapha for inviting me to lead the Health and Wellbeing SynapseDesign Studio and the series of workshops, it has been a very exciting challenge!
  2. 2. Health and Wellbeing Synapse Design Studio, VCUQatarFriday, 8 April 2011Let me start right from the beginning. Back in October last year, I was invited to lead theSynapse studio at VCUQatar kicked off, under the ‘Health and Wellbeing’ Topic. The studiohad students from graphic design, fashion and interior design, and was conceived as a pointof convergence, a chance for the students to work on a mulitdisciplinary project.
  3. 3. LOCAL FIELD VISITFriday, 8 April 2011The students and I kicked off the studio by visiting various different hospitals, health clinics inan attempt to understand the landscape. Here in Doha, there are hospitals for men, women,and for people with different economic backgrounds. Some like this one, are on a veryimpressive scale, equivalent to a five star hotel. Local Qatari citizens get free surgeries, andsome of the more popular ones have been in cosmetic enhancement.
  4. 4. Friday, 8 April 2011Especially rhinoplasty, or what is more popularly known as the ‘nose job’.
  5. 5. Friday, 8 April 2011A small surgery that requires you to be in the hospital only for a day, makes a significantdifference to your appearance.
  6. 6. Stem cell bank stillFriday, 8 April 2011Another medical centre that recently came up is the Virgin health bank, banking umbilical cord stemcells. This particular bank is of huge significance here in Qatar, because the country has one of thehighest number of genetic disorders in the world.
  7. 7. Friday, 8 April 2011In fact, to decrease the deformities the Government has made pre-marital examinationcompulsory.
  8. 8. Diabetes Walk, QatarFriday, 8 April 2011Another reason for the bank is that Qatar also has a large number of people who sufferfrom diabetes, which is caused by a hereditary gene which is moving within a very smallpopulation.
  9. 9. CREATING THE DESIGN BRIEF: As science and medical technology progresses in rapid steps, bringing possibilities to not just cure, but also significantly enhance the functions of our bodies, what would be the implications on our health and wellbeing?Friday, 8 April 2011So looking at these different aspects of the landscape - where on one side: Cheap,quick, painless cosmetic surgery has meant we whiten our teeth, remove excess fat,alter the shape of our nose, while on other, stem cell therapy is becomingcommonplace, we formulated the key question for the design brief.
  10. 10. ECONOMICS | TECHNOLOGY | DESIRESFriday, 8 April 2011We identified three key factors - Economics, Technologies and our own humanDesires - have created a space for something new to happen.
  11. 11. BEYOND HEALTH AND WELL-BEINGFriday, 8 April 2011This new space is a conceptual area, but also fast becoming a real market space that is almost‘beyond health and wellbeing’ the way we understand. This is not to suggest that its a ‘good’space, but its a new space, and will continue to open up. What sorts of products, services andexperiences will occupy this space? And how will designers play a role in shaping this space?Lets take a moment to see what is happening in other parts of the world....
  12. 12. AIMEE MULLINS: ‘FUNCTIONAL’ ENHANCEMENTFriday, 8 April 2011This is Aimee Mullins, a very wellknown American amputee, athlete
  13. 13. Friday, 8 April 2011And a fashion model!
  14. 14. Friday, 8 April 2011And these are some of her 12 legs... she works closely with a fashion designer to createspecial prosthetics for different needs and occasions.
  15. 15. Friday, 8 April 2011But not just Aimee anymore. Bespoke Prosthetics, is a company that designs and produces‘good looking’ prosthetics for anyone who needs one. Clearly, designers are actively shapingthis area.
  16. 16. How will you as designers address these questions within the context of Qatar? Qatari Citizens (minority) Expats Migrant WorkersFriday, 8 April 2011Bringing it back to the studio the key question for the students was how would they riseto these societal changes within the context of Qatar. Given their field research, did theythink that those with limitless access might indulge further, perhaps with a desire to buyinto a new ‘enhanced lifestyle’ or even beat ageing? Or would the decreasing costs ofthese technologies allow all, even for those without much access, to ‘benefit’?
  17. 17. STUDIO OBJECTIVES: • UNCOVER SOCIETAL CONCERNS • ENGAGE IN CRITICAL THINKING • EXPLORE WIDER IMPLICATIONSFriday, 8 April 2011The biggest thing this studio hoped to achieve was to work as a catalyst that would empowerthe students to uncover societal concerns, engage in critical thinking and explore implicationsof their work within the wider economic and technological changes. Ultimately this woulddirectly impact their specific design projects that were going on simultaneously.
  18. 18. Zaina Abu DayehFriday, 8 April 2011One of my students, Zaina, interviewed lot of her friends around their aspirations for cosmeticenhancements. She found out that there was a need for a constant change in one’sappearance, either due to unspoken social pressures, or plain boredom. For instance, one ofthe girls was about to go for rhinoplasty so that the profile photographs of her wedding willlook better.
  19. 19. Zaina Abu Dayeh Context: “Woman are covered with Abbayeh; very little of the female body is shown.” Questions: “What is the perfect body? “If medical technology allows you to have a perfect body would you try?” Does you consider acquiring this ‘perfect body’ due to social pressures?”Friday, 8 April 2011
  20. 20. Zaina Abu Dayeh The Theory of Divine Proportions “It is getting more and more difficult to define a concept of contemporary beauty. In urban society, where the hunt for perfection begins at an early age and modified ‘plastic beauties’ wave from the covers of glossy magazines, humanity’s struggle for perfection appears almost limitless.”Friday, 8 April 2011She investigated further, and started drawing out the theory of divine proportions overphotographs of her friends and interviewees.
  21. 21. Sketches: ‘The Device / Machine / Artefact’Friday, 8 April 2011She went on design a scanning service, that would allow people to see themselves postcosmetic enhancement. these are her early sketches of a machine, that people walktowards, and scan themselves:
  22. 22. SERVICES OFFERED: screen grab of her device possibilitiesFriday, 8 April 2011At the scanner one could select one or more of these services. What is interesting aboutthis is that by suggesting a device that lowers the barriers to cosmetic surgery stillfurther - the device becomes an embodiment of these wider trends and allows people toengage with those trends in a totem. after making these prototype sketches she wentback to the women she had interviewed earlier:
  23. 23. Video Interview 1 “Here in Doha, I know many friends, who from a very young age, they like to do surgeries, specially their nose and stuff... and it would be good to store a record of their faces before doing it, so that they dont get shocked.”Friday, 8 April 2011One of them said: “Here in Doha, I know many friends, who from a very young age, they liketo do surgeries, specially their nose and stuff... and it would be good to store a record of theirfaces before doing it, so that they dont get shocked.”
  24. 24. Video Interview 2 After seeing an image of my face with perfect nose, I’d be convinced to change it. And if everyone who used the service felt the same way and would want to change themselves, then no one would be unique, and I think that’s something people should avoid.”Friday, 8 April 2011“After seeing an image of my face with perfect nose, I’d be convinced to change it. And ifeveryone who used the service felt the same way and would want to change themselves,then no one would be unique, and I think that’s something people should avoid.”
  25. 25. Video Interview 3 “After seeing those advertisements and posters, I am very keen to use this service. It gives people a view of what the outcome of the surgery might be, and seeing how it can produce a perfect human face, its much more encouraging to go and try it out.”Friday, 8 April 2011“After seeing those advertisements and posters, I am very keen to use this service. Itgives people a view of what the outcome of the surgery might be, and seeing how it canproduce a perfect human face, its much more encouraging to go and try it out.”
  26. 26. THE ‘IDEAL’ BODYFriday, 8 April 2011One of the key questions that Zaina’s work brought up was around humanity’s limitlessstruggle for the ideal body.
  27. 27. Yang Soon Elizabeth JuFriday, 8 April 2011Her research focussed on interviews with expats, and increasing interest in the...
  28. 28. Stem cell bank stillFriday, 8 April 2011...Virgin health bank, stem cell therapy in qatar, its side effects on our skin (making people lookyounger) and resulting impact on our identities.
  29. 29. Yang Soon Elizabeth Ju How can fashion become a powerful tool to remind us of the fragility of our bodies? How can design remind us that imperfection could be valuable? How can designers be involved in an active debate around such technologies that will shape our futures?Friday, 8 April 2011Based on her research, Elizabeth raised the following questions:
  30. 30. Imperfection as Accessory Degeneration over Time An Ageless SocietyFriday, 8 April 2011Her response was a series of fashion accessories that raise critical questions about the nature ofstem cell therapy and its consequences. With a large percentage of the population going in for stemcell therapy, she wonders if the side effects of this treatment could turn the cure into a fetish? If itcould make you look ‘young’ and ‘hide the process of ageing’ would those without any ailmentsalso want it? Through a series of fashions accessories she aims to draw attention to the fragility ofour bodies, its relationship to disease, and the process of ageing.
  31. 31. IMPERFECTION AS ACCESSORYFriday, 8 April 2011The first by Elizabeth is aiming to raise questions about the growing genetic health concerns inQatar. The inspiration for this exploration is Homocystinuria, which is one of the most commongenetic disorders worldwide as well as in Qatar. One of the major symptoms include abnormally talland thin spidery fingers, and longer than average limbs. Post stem cell therapy, when most of thepopulation would have ‘perfect bodies’ - would fashion accessories be needed to create‘imperfection’ and remind us of past genetic deformities?
  32. 32. DEGENERATON OVER TIMEFriday, 8 April 2011Inspired by the small and numerous skin pricks that diabetes patients endure from dailyinjections, this dress has small luminescent dots on the waist where a diabetes patient mighthave had to make regular pricks. Post stem cell therapy, when people no longer suffer fromdiabetes, could fashion remind us of the fragility of our bodies?
  33. 33. AGELESS SOCIETYFriday, 8 April 2011The last piece by Elizabeth is conceived as an external body clock. This wearable artefactgently cracks over the lifetime of its owner, cracks revealing the ageing process. Designed fora scenario where stem cell therapy makes most of the population look visibly younger, wouldwe perhaps need external devices to remind us of the passage of time?
  34. 34. AUGMENTATION / ENHANCEMENTFriday, 8 April 2011Elizabeth raised critical questions around the role of technology in generating desires foraugmentation or enhancement.
  35. 35. Al Hussein Ahmed Wanas * Wake up at 4:00 am * 4:30 company transportation * 11 pm sleep * 1 room 6 people (sometimes 10) * No medical facilities * no break time * Salary 1400 * No insurance * Cut from salary to pay the agency 3000 * Not able to enjoy weekends because of stress * Implicit knowledge of each other’s whereabouts.Friday, 8 April 2011Finally, my third student Hussein was working with migrant workers, speaking withthem, even following them through their working days whenever he managed to getpermissions.
  36. 36. Al Hussein Ahmed Wanas “How can design enable migrant workers to escape from the daily mundane pressures of working life?”Friday, 8 April 2011Hussein quickly realised that he found himself in situations that were difficult, and muchbigger then what he, as a designer had ever considered before. He wondered, how coulddesign enable migrant workers to escape from the daily mundane pressures of working life?”
  37. 37. Al Hussein Ahmed Wanas Could I create playful tools & services that might allow migrant workers to have the experience of momentarily being ‘Super Enhanced’?Friday, 8 April 2011Sketching out ideas - ranging from anti gravitational elevators to virtual identity andholographic pads. This is very much a work-in-progress at the moment.
  38. 38. ENHANCING HEALTH SERVICESFriday, 8 April 2011Hussein’s project brought the Studio’s third key question around ‘enhancing healthservices’
  39. 39. SYNAPSE HEALTH AND WELL-BEING DESIGN WORKSHOPSFriday, 8 April 2011And so finally, The learning, as well as the emergent themes from our Design Studioprovided us with the framework for the three workshops that we lead during theTasmeem Conference.
  41. 41. Friday, 8 April 2011And soon the participants began to warm up:
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  49. 49. Friday, 8 April 2011The poster that was empty on day 1, soon
  50. 50. Friday, 8 April 2011Grew...
  51. 51. Friday, 8 April 2011
  52. 52. Friday, 8 April 2011Till it was full of layers of ideas from people who were expressing hidden desires as wellas deep fears. Playful and imaginative conversations began to emerge.
  53. 53. Friday, 8 April 2011Let me share a few from each poster: “I’d like a smaller face and a higher neck.”
  54. 54. Friday, 8 April 2011“Just a little less fat”
  55. 55. Friday, 8 April 2011“wish I had longer, faster legs”
  56. 56. Friday, 8 April 2011“even the ability to run 20 miles a day. doubled muscle tissue to increase physical strength, asmaller ribcage would be useful.”
  57. 57. Friday, 8 April 2011“Wings maybe?”
  58. 58. Friday, 8 April 2011“Fast growing hair”
  59. 59. Friday, 8 April 2011
  60. 60. Friday, 8 April 2011
  61. 61. Friday, 8 April 2011even fangs!
  62. 62. Friday, 8 April 2011
  63. 63. Friday, 8 April 2011Similarly a poster that posed the above question
  64. 64. Friday, 8 April 2011Also grew steadily over the course of three days
  65. 65. Friday, 8 April 2011
  66. 66. Friday, 8 April 2011
  67. 67. Friday, 8 April 2011And once again, lets zoom into some of the doodles
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  74. 74. Friday, 8 April 2011
  75. 75. Friday, 8 April 2011A mix of interesting themes emerged.
  76. 76. Friday, 8 April 2011Lastly, the poster around health services
  77. 77. Friday, 8 April 2011
  78. 78. Friday, 8 April 2011
  79. 79. Friday, 8 April 2011Had some quite interesting ideas too.
  80. 80. Friday, 8 April 2011
  81. 81. Friday, 8 April 2011The one about free and equal health service for humans and animals sparked a bigdebate (with the Gulf context)
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  83. 83. Friday, 8 April 2011
  84. 84. image?Friday, 8 April 2011These posters worked as ice breakers, helping strangers get to know each other quicklyenough to actually be able to align thematically, and work together on micro designprojects - they generated the energy that lead teams to quickly move into the...
  85. 85. THE MAKING!Friday, 8 April 2011Making phase! Pretty much like a ‘pressure project’ or a quick design project, designersand non designers worked alongside... to cross-pollinate ideas, concerns, hopes anddesires.
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  95. 95. Friday, 8 April 2011Fun was had by all!
  96. 96. PRESENTATION TIME!Friday, 8 April 2011
  97. 97. Friday, 8 April 2011Each workshop lasted about 3.5 hours. Following the making and deliberating phase, allthe groups spent the last 15 minutes presenting their ideas. (remember, lot of non-designers were participating, so this was a new experience, and they did very well!)
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  100. 100. THE DESIGN IDEASFriday, 8 April 2011Let me go through just few of the ideas that were presented!
  101. 101. HEAR WHAT YOU EATFriday, 8 April 2011One group came up with ‘Hear What You Eat’ - A food sensor on the fingers that isconnected to your ear, giving you instant information about the nutritious value of thefood you eat -
  102. 102. Friday, 8 April 2011Which gets triggered when you are about to tuck into fat burgers and triple-cheesepizzas!
  103. 103. MY IDEAL BODY WOULD BE INVISIBLEFriday, 8 April 2011This group declared that their ideal body was one that could be made invisible. So thatthey could go to the beach in a bikini rather then the Abbayah swimming costume, go ondates, to the disco and even steal from a bank.
  104. 104. DEVICES THAT HELP YOU FORGETFriday, 8 April 2011One group set about designing a set of devices that explored the concept of memoryloss. Again it was a women-only group, raising a lot of concerns around freedom andexperiences of trauma.
  105. 105. DEVICES THAT HELP YOU FORGETFriday, 8 April 2011Set of implants and fashion objects - depending on your situation you are given thedevice. From small memory losses to avoid information overload to dealing with deeperissues of trauma.
  106. 106. SUPER HERO TOOL KITFriday, 8 April 2011One group set about designing a super hero tool kit, as a tool to explore the aspirationsof the conference participants.
  107. 107. SELF-DIAGNOSTICS FOR PANDEMICSFriday, 8 April 2011In times of pandemics such as the swine flu, there is often a log of panic, and people arenot clear about their symptoms. Hospitals on the other hand are unable to handle thecrowds of people pouring in - could we create self diagnostic services that work as a‘step in-between’?
  108. 108. Friday, 8 April 2011LEGO HAND MODEL used for this rapid rendering.
  109. 109. PROSTHETIC VISION COMIC STRIPFriday, 8 April 2011This team presented a comic strip, about a prosthetic vision device that reveals hiddeninformation from the environment and transmits it into your brain.
  110. 110. A WELLNESS SPACE FOR WOMEN 110Friday, 8 April 2011One of the groups designed a ‘wellness space’ - more like a free space where womencan talk without any societal pressures. This idea came from a group of women fromOman, Qatar and Saudi Arabia.
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  115. 115. A PROVOCATIVE BOARD GAME 115Friday, 8 April 2011A board game that helps ‘you create yourself one choice at a time’,
  116. 116. 116Friday, 8 April 2011You pick from a lot of cards and ‘find yourself’
  117. 117. 117Friday, 8 April 2011The Dice!
  118. 118. Friday, 8 April 2011Individual cards on the board game decide your fate
  119. 119. THE MAKING OF A COLLABORATIVE FUTUREFriday, 8 April 2011A lot of these ideas might seem fantastical, scifi or downright silly. But moreimportantly, they became triggers for conversations, discussions about future hopes andour own ability to be involved in the making of this future. And this is possible,because, as designers, we have these exciting tools and processes, which can createactive, generative, even positively disruptive engagements... sometimes leading to moreamazing stuff!
  120. 120. EMERGING THEMES: FIGHTING NATURE PLAYING WITH MAGIC TACKLING CONTRADICTIONSFriday, 8 April 2011... can open up a new set of serious themes, they may or may not have considered.
  121. 121. COME IN AND TELL US...Friday, 8 April 2011And now, finally we invite you - the audience, to continue this conversation...this is the room you are looking for, on the first floor, come drop by...
  122. 122. Friday, 8 April 2011Grab a pen,
  123. 123. Friday, 8 April 2011and get involved!
  124. 124. Shukran | Twitter: @SuperfluxFriday, 8 April 2011Thank you!