We began today’s supervisor meeting by discussing the trip to Japan for the TEI conference. I explained that the demo I gave helped me to network. The attendees seemed to understand the the purpose of the project and what the device we developed aims to bring to the research field. But my overriding feeling is that the attendees at this particular conference weren’t able to discuss the prototype with the critical eye that others at a health focused conference might have. As such I proposed to submit a short two-page paper I’d written to the Pervasive Health conference as a means to demo the device with a different audience. We discussed this proposal together in the meeting and decided it probably wasn’t the best use of my time because ultimately the best way to get feedback about the design would be to test it with users. Only then will I have a better idea about what questions to ask in the research project. Regardless, writing the paper was a good exercise because it helped me to focus my thinking and target specific design problems. One important idea, which could very well be the basis of my research, is the question of what

Forms, aesthetics and interaction modalities are best suited to people suffering from mental health issues?

Following this we had a long discussion about how to deal with some of the complexities of doing research with vulnerable people who have mental health issues. To discuss these things, we used Thieme’s paper, Challenges for designing new health and wellbeing technology as a reference point. These are some of the outcomes:

  • Ethics approval is going to take time
  • We discussed the fact that there are different profiles of healthcare group:
    • State organisations and large private organisations and charities e.g. NHS – When working with this type of organisation it may take time to understand and meet protocol to do a study, and we may be restricted in what we can do. But the universities ethics board may be likely to trust the rigour and security of running a study with this type of organisation.
    • Small community mental health organisations like candlespark – less red tape but less controlled environment. The university ethics board may be less secure about this type of study. Ethics clearance within the university may be difficult to obtain.
  • It’s important to build up a network of psychology professionals and incentivise their involvement in the project in some way. Janet and Marian mentioned two people they know who could be good leads (Ingrid Slack, ? Odell). I also have one contact ( who I have emailed
  • I would like to undertake a series of interviews with counsellors and psychology researchers to find out which interactive and non-interactive tools are currently being used and how they fit with psychological approaches. Marian said I need to pilot this and discuss it with professionals in this area so it’s not a stab in the dark
  • Additionally, I should seek out opportunities for my own, personal education/training in psychology – Potentially an OU course?
  • It was suggested that alongside exploring the interview options, we should plan a study with the sprite catcher device.
  • Janet emphasised that an important part of this should be to avoid giving explicit directions for how the device should be used. We should observe and form an understanding of their relationship with the device through the course of the study. This is derived from the kind of qualitative approach to research used by sociologists and is a good method for discovering meaning that might be overlooked in a more forward-structured study. I made reference to Thieme’s paper at this point because she uses a method where she allows the participants to use the device as they please for the first couple of weeks and then gives them instructions after this. I have some reservation about this approach because in a clinical setting people who have a mental health issue may not intuitively use the device in a way which is good for their mental wellbeing. Perhaps professional guidance is particularly important in this setting. But then again, maybe it depends on the device and whether it affords self-harm or not.
  • We discussed other ways of keeping the study open and giving the participants choice. We suggested having a bunch of interactive and non-interactive devices available to be taken away voluntarily by service users. Included may be a mood diary app, charts and colours used
  • We decided that I should focus on producing 6 sprite catchers for the study so they can be given to various different people. At first we should aim to conduct a study with general members of the public who are not mentally ill. This will help me to uncover which questions to ask in the broader project
  • We discussed ways for the participants to personalise the sprite catcher to take ownership of it
  • We discussed some of the interesting areas of research – Janet reiterated her interest in the contrast between embodied and disembodied forms of interaction and the impact that social media in the virtual world might have on
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