For my final project, I’ve known since before I started the MRes that I wanted to look at digital intimacy/presence.
I would like to conduct user research into when and where people miss their lovers ones the most and, from these findings, will aim to develop networked objects which will allow subtle, non-interfering interactions between them. These interactions will be deeply meaningful encounters with technology and would merge seamlessly into an individual’s everyday life.
Whilst exploring intimacy over the Christmas break, my initial user research highlighted the key moments and situations in which individuals miss their partners the most. Going to bed at night is the situation which induces the greatest feeling of absence but, as I explored this before (Pillow Talk, 2010) I am choosing to look at another. Therefore, at the moment I am exploring ways in which I can enable or enhance intimacy between couples at mealtimes. My aim is to develop a networked technology solution which will make dining alone less lonely and allow a subtle connection and interaction to their partner who is also, presumably, dining alone.
As I was supposed to start a PhD last September, I’ve had a pretty in-depth proposal drawn up for a while, the problem I’ve had is picking something “small” enough to achieve by August. I don’t want to skimp over anything or fail to do my research justice – my worst fear is that I’ll get so caught up in it all that I won’t want to have to force it to a close after only eight months. I guess the key thing I need to do here is define milestones and key goals, to ensure I remain on target and can force myself to move onto the next stage.
The mealtimes thing is a bit of tangent. I wasn’t 100% sure what aspect of a relationship I wanted to focus on, and then the other week I was having lunch with an old university professor, one who is quite likely to be my PhD supervisor next year. We were talking about my PhD proposal and ways in which intimacy could be explored and – probably because we were sitting in a restaurant at the time – we started observing the ways people were dining. This made me think back to the cultural probes I did for my degree project; the top “lonely time” for couples separated by distance was bedtime, but this was very closely followed by mealtimes. So, ever since this meal with my old lecturer I’ve become obsessed with intimacy whilst dining. It’s driving my boyfriend a bit crazy, he doesn’t like eating with me in restaurants anymore because I keep creeping on all the other people eating! But I’ve read a lot of interesting papers on the topic and I think it’s definitely worth pursuing.