Journal of Sonic Studies, volume 6, nr. 1 (January 2014)Marie Højlund; Sofie Kinch: ALARMING ATMOSPHERES - EMBODIED SOUND HABITUATION AS DESIGN STRATEGY IN A NEURO-INTENSIVE CARE UNIT
In the broad interdisciplinary field of human-computer interaction, referred to as Constructive Design Research, researching through design is the preferred method. A method where the "construction - be it product, system, space, or media - takes centre place and becomes the key means in constructing knowledge" (Koskinen, Zimmerman, Binder, Redstrom and Wensveen 2011: 5). This includes a process of engaging with so-called “wicked problems”, that is, real-world problems extracted from messy situations, with conflicting interests and multiple perspectives that are not reductively solvable (Stolterman 2008). “Wicked problems” are found by studying the world and can be mitigated through the process of design to transform a situation from its current state to a preferred state. The contribution is a novel integration of theory, technology, user need and context (Zimmerman, Forlizzi and Evenson 2007). Thus, the research artefact is designed to elicit new knowledge, in the process of addressing a particular problem (Stolterman 2008).
We initiated and have been responsible for the development of the design project Kidkit as well as the subsequent evaluation among NIA users. In the design process, user studies provided the basis for our design choices. The development of Kidkit has evolved around observations, sound recordings, and photo and video documentation in the ward. We have made walks with nurse commentary in order to capture the atmosphere of the ward. Further, we have conducted interviews with several nurses as well as a psychiatrist regarding children’s behaviour in the ward environment. Moreover, we have continuously tested the prototypes on children. Evaluations of real visit situations, where the nurses introduced children to Kidkit before visiting a hospitalised relative, were conducted.
Kidkit was developed through an interdisciplinary collaboration. While acknowledging the difficulty in extracting and analysing specific aspects of an integrated whole, this article focuses specifically on the sound design aspects, exploring embodied sound habituation as a possible conceptual tool when designing for atmospheres in which sound forms a primary stressor. The final prototype has evolved through an iterative design process, where sketching, modelling, prototyping and user-involvement laid the groundwork for the design choices made. A thorough explanation of the design process and evaluation is presented elsewhere (Kinch and Højlund 2013). Hence, while we leave the comprehensive evaluation data out in this article, relevant field notes (in italics) will appear throughout the article as informative impressions derived from our interviews, observations and evaluations. One specific observation of Kidkit in use is described in detail, as it specifically addresses how our sound design strategy is unfolded in a real life scenario.