Re-Wiring Wellness: Tech & Wellbeing
22-23 February, Somerset House
Wellness in 2020 has taken on new relevance in the wake of Covid19. Social distancing has become an essential public health measure. As we adjust to new ways of life, how we deal with our mental health in self-isolation? How can tech help us navigate our health – both physically and mentally?
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.
When we talk about health and technology, what may come to mind is its negative impact on our wellbeing. Information overload, anxiety and a “24/7” mindset may have been at the forefront of our minds recently. How can we see the flip side to tech’s side effects on our health? How could we re-imagine tech improving our health and mental wellbeing?
George Taktak (Feeliom)
George Taktak showcased Feeliom. This mobile app empows people to express emotions through technology. The app enables sharing your mood through colour, or vibrations imitating a heartbeat rather than text. In doing so, Feeliom hopes to help users struggling with loneliness through lack of access to other ways of expressing themselves. George was inspired by his grandfather and the distress Alzheimer’s provoked as well as his family’s when he suffered speech loss. George invited participants to adopt exercices to improve their wellbeing part of a Mental Fitness Workout. No physical gym workout – instead, some talking, sharing and mindfulness.
Shelley James is a glass artist and light expert. She showcased her experiments on the way light can influence our health – using plants. Mung beans were exposed to artificial light on one end, versus a new generation of LED chips generating full daylight spectrum on the other.
Shelley and James were both part of our Mental Health & Tech Debate. We also invited wellbeing practitioner Charlotte Crowther and Titan Reality CEO Helen Benarrosh. The multidisciplinary panel, working across light, VR and digital tech, led to fascinatng insights. We explored the idea of self-care in 2020, the need for increased mental healthcare resources and how screens are here to stay – but can be used mindfully.
Making linked to mental health can also be a way to explore our bodies and emotions. How do we express our personal relationship to illness and recovery? Under 25 member Shilpa Sehdev studied modules in Fine Arts looking at sculpture and installation, alongside starting her medical career which informed her artistic influences and inspiration. Her work creates connection between the two influences developed from a personal medical journey:
I was struck by a severe illness last year, I was thrown into a coma for 15 days. I remember conceptualising at that moment that I might or might not survive, but my indifference as to whether I did or did not, gave me a greater feeling of invulnerability. Once recovered from this chapter of my life, I began trying to understand the importance and fragility of life and the human experience.
Moving from the personal to the collective, tn what ways can open-source health data advocate for worldwide collaboration?
The founders of Hetco Design, Shruti Grover and Simon Johnson, are a design-engineer and data scientist. Through Open-Source Medical World they show how open-source software can help us share health data. In parallel, they presented the MSF Makes publication. Its design ‘recipes’ are from problem-solvers seeking to improve how Médecins sans Frontières delivers care to patients.
This was a refreshing alternative to the idea that health tech innovation is inherently high-tech. Many of these recipes mainly call for DIY alternatives in areas where digital tech is not feasible.
At the moment more than ever, the conversation has only just begun. As health becomes an urgent, worldwide issue, we want to share what makers are doing to provide solutions and inspiration in ways which focus on social responsability and collective good. Watch this space.
Our conversations throughout the programme continued into what tech means in terms of mobility, accessibility, childcare and sexuality. For more on this, check out Part Two: Sex, Tech & Inclusion!