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Peripheral Needs
Enabling the unmet needs of marginalized society through design

Author: Christian Palino (USA)
Supervisors: Jan-Christoph Zoels, Neil Churcher and Philip Tabor

Idea/problem/context Being human includes ‘peripheral’ needs: dispositions, motives and sympathies outside the mainstream definition of ‘normal’ and ‘desired’ that cannot be addressed simply through user-friendliness. This project proposes design for peripheral needs, and considers its psychological, social, and cultural consequences.

What it is A set of designs which enable the compulsions of people (such as those who agreed to be the subjects of this study) with obsessive-compulsive disorder. For a woman who needs to repeatedly check that her electric appliances are shut off – switches she can carry with her for mental comfort. For a man who feels compelled to count patterned objects in his environment (tiles, say) – personalized maps to express his counting needs and to share with people with the same compulsion.

How it works For the checking compulsion, soft velcro-lined RFID-tagged switches are placed on electrical appliances (equipped with an RFID tag reader) to turn them on. The switches can be removed, physically disengaging the power, and carried in various retro-fitted personal effects (handbag, keychain, pillow) that you can physically check for reassurance when away from the appliances. For the counting compulsion, customized maps built with Anoto technology (in which images, hand-drawn or written using a camera-embedded pen, may be stored or transmitted digitally) allows you to record information about countable patterns in your surroundings. These notations are sent to a server database that supports a map-location web interface allowing people to seek or avoid such patterns.

Value/Potential Through design principles and techniques similar to those applied to mainstream needs, designing for peripheral needs declares that those needs are acceptable, as worthy of being addressed as mainstream ones. More generally, it highlights design’s ability to affect, or at least perpetuate, ideas of social acceptability.

download QuickTime Movie (video by Andrea Pierri) - 1.92 MB


Christian Palino
2005 graduate
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