Re-Wiring Wellness: Sex, Tech & Inclusion
22-23 February, Somerset House
Our “Re-Wiring Wellness” showcase in February was part of Somerset House’s wider programming. It coincided with the closing weekend of 24/7: A wake up call for our non-stop world. The exhibition looked at ways modern life affecting our lives – and sleep. Makerversity’s community showcased their work around health alongside debates, maker demos and workshops. In our Re-Wiring Wellness: Tech & Wellbeing post, we explored Makerversity members’ contributions from a mental health perspective. Yet other major themes in the programme revolved around inclusive design as well as personal care and sexual health.
Mara Pezzotta is a Designer working on the concept of Controversial Design and how to challenge the way we explore Sex, Food and Death with design. Pinximonio created in collaborationn with Arduini Design aims to challenge taboos surrounding vibrators. How would we react to their presence as a design piece for a living room? The set draw inspiration from vegetable shapes to get us to engage with design and sexual health from a different perspective!
Josh Armistead is the founder of Troglo, an app to track your sex habits and experience with personalised information. Troglo’s objective is to lift the shame around sex and STDs. Their particular sex education focus is on their main demographic: gay and bi men. Sexual health also forms part of mental wellbeing issues in the LGBTQI community.
Mara and Josh both took part in our Sex Tech and Health Debate. We invited Soumyadip Rakshit from connected sex toy company Mystery Vibe, and Jas Matharu from femtech app Elara Cara. This led to an intense and taboo-free discussion on how tech informs our approach to sex, pleasure and health. We talked about sex toys, trans inclusive health and vaginas – and got to hear from some NHS professionals in the audience. Throughout the weekend the state of public healthcare was a constant concern. How can we use tech to alleviate pressure from understaffed and overworked structures – now more than ever?
Our Queer Health Late led to an open discussion about LGBTQI+ healthcare – and using tech to solve this. We talked about the lack of official resources versus help around sexual health cropping up in unexpected places – like Grindr. Last month was LGBTQ+ History Month: an event started to counter the damage caused by Section 28. This law prevented local authorities and school from educating about homosexuality. Many young queer and trans people grew up without access to basic knowledge about their histories – and sexual health.
Charlotte Barry is a textile designer – she is both a new Makers with a Mission member part of the cohort for Make Your Own Masters led by Stacie Woolsey, showcased in our programme last year. Her projects merge textiles and products that introduce tactility to problem-solve. She presents Oro, an urban furniture piece encouraging breastfeeding made from recycled plastics. The piece’s intended function is to bring mothers together to reduce loneliness.
Nia Simpson (Compact Cane)
Designing for disability is intimately linked to conversations around access to health. Nia Simpson is passionate about as the inventor of Compact Cane. This is a discreet, pocket-sized, electronic white cane for visually impaired people. Nia was able to present her work publicly for the first time as part of a Maker Demo within the programme. This led to some new interesting conversations around using tech for social good.
As we recap this programme, it is impossible to act as though our relationship to sex has not changed in a period of social distancing. The same goes for our definition of accessible and inclusive tech. There has not been a better time to reflect upon ways inclusive tech and design can be a central part of the way we do things, rather than an afterthought so that we can continue to share ideas remotely, and rethink the way we interact with each other. Watch this space for new conversations and perspectives as we navigate making, tech and design linked to health in 2020, together.