primary RESEARCH

Time: April 14 – April 19

Brief: Design a way to counter some of the alienating effects of remote working online.

My group: Melanie, Nayla, Lea

Due to the Covid-19 pandemic our third term started online. As in the second term, our central focus was on a project with an external collaborator. Our group was paired up with IBM and assigned the brief of designing a way to counter some of the alienating effects of remote working online. At the beginning of the week we met our collaborators via a conference call, where they presented their work, process and the brief in more detail.

IBM process

Following their presentation, we decided to further educate ourselves and look at the topic from a broad perspective. By examining the psychological impact of working remotely, I found out that one of the most pronounced negative effects was isolation. I delved into that problem and discovered some surprising facts: the risk of social isolation is very similar in magnitude to that of obesity, smoking and lack of physical inactivity; isolation can lead to depression, poor sleep quality, accelerated cognitive decline, poor cardiovascular function and impaired immunity; it is also associated with a 40 percent increase in a person’s risk of dementia.

Lea dived into the creative work and the importance of physical presence, especially in relation to the importance of the body, motion of thoughts, body as a memory and a vehicle to rediscover personal memories through re-enacting moments. Nayla read articles regarding brain activity tracking and behavioural disinhibition in teleworking, one of which described a system that captures attention levels of users through an EEG headset and can be used to sense brain activity associated with various cognitive states. She also looked into case studies about the importance of eye contact and the possible ways to achieve it through teleworking. Melanie studied the design process of wearable technologies, where she came across two interesting studies: the first one, Living Bits, attempts to think beyond the traditional boundaries that exist between biological cells and computers to integrate microorganism in human-computer interaction (HCI), as they have the potential to enhance HCI in entirely new ways; and the second one, titled Wearable Wisdom, talks about the development of an intelligent audio-based system for mediating wisdom and advice.

Collaboration via Zoom

The feedback was quite positive, they liked that we looked at the whole picture, but highlighted the fact that we needed to choose a more specific direction, as our research was quite broad and not deep enough. After the first week I felt that we were off to a good start, but I was aware of the fact that it was not an easy brief, since human contact we lack in remote work holds great importance and is in fact irreplaceable.  


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