28 June 2011

Achieving a sense of home for people who travel extensively

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Home Awareness prototype
One of the people presenting at the DPPI conference in Milan last week was Aviaja Borup Lynggaard, an industrial Ph.D. scholar at Bang & Olufsen (B&O), attached to the Aarhus School of Architecture and Aarhus University.

Her very interesting Ph.D. project – which aims to inspire new B&O products – is called On the move – creating domesticity through experience design. It is part of the larger research project Mobile Home Center, which receives funding from Danish National Advanced Technology Foundation.

The project explores how to achieve a sense of home for people who travel extensively.

Together with researchers from The Danish School of Education, Aarhus University and the Aarhus School of Architecture, Aviaja Borup Lynggaard sets out to map how people manage a mobile lifestyle and to develop prototypes and concepts for products and services.

The project is guided by home researcher and anthropologist Ida Winther’s definition of the phenomenon home as an activity, ‘homing’, defined as something one does to achieve a sense of being at home, wherever one is currently located.

The goal is to study how interaction design can help promote this sense of home and facilitate homing.

Aviaja Borup Lynggaard’s project is focused on people who have an extremely mobile lifestyle, including B&O customers with heavy travel activity between multiple homes or hotels.

The project applies a user-centred design process that actively involves the customers in the design process from start to finish through ethnographic studies, interviews and trials of concepts and prototypes for new products.

The Ph.D. project will foster a range of products and services for subsequent development at B&O.

Three recent papers provide more background:

Home awareness – connecting people sensuously to places (pdf – 09/2010)
People living a global lifestyle connect remotely to their families while away from home. In this paper we identify a need for connecting with a home as the physical place itself. For this purpose we introduce the concept of Home Awareness that connects people sensuously to remote places through sound, light and feeling of temperature. A working prototype has been successfully tested and we present some results from early user studies.

Tactics for homing in mobile life – a fieldwalk study of extremely mobile people (pdf – 09/2010)
For many people home making is an activity, which extends beyond a single house. We introduce the terminology of Homing as the act of home making, when in a primary home, secondary home or more temporary spaces. By point of departure in existing literature on home making and through ethnographic studies of extremely mobile people we identify general tactics for homing. We present the identified tactics and show how people deploy not only one but several tactics in their intention of making a homely feeling despite not being in their primary home.
Reviewing the mobile technologies currently in use we argue that several of the tactics identified are currently not well supported. We discuss how technology design can learn from this study through pointing to the potential in designing mobile technologies to better support these unsupported tactics.
We consider the tactics as a tool for deeper understanding of mobile practices and thus informing the design of more relevant future technologies for people engaged in a mobile lifestyle.

On the move : creating domesticity through experience design (pdf – 10/2010)
This paper is a summary of the Ph.D. project about home and mobility. The project concerns design for mobile life and through various prototypes it is an investigation of how to support the act of home making away from the primary home.

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