THE TUBE : Formgiving discourse - not form follows norm. The medical ventilator and the neglected tube.

University essay from Konstfack/Industridesign

Author: Cristine Sundbom; [2011]

Keywords: ;


If form follows normative discourse in medical design, what happens to the gestalt when you include related discourses of the medical ventilator in the design process? My aim has been to integrate critical industrial design and with an exploratory aesthetic approach. This aesthetic approach aimed to create an on going exchange between the development of concepts inspired by theory and the creative sketching of 3-D form.The medical ventilator can be divided in three parts: 1. The technical part of the machine, 2. The monitor with an interface, and 3. The tubes that is the connection to the patient. In the beginning of the project I was working with the part of the medical ventilator that connects to the patient, ie. the tubes. My methods at this point were conducting interviews with caretakers, filming nurses handling the tube and having informal discussions with doctors and nurses. Using my own embodied experience is also part of my method since I am a licenced voctional nurse with experience from the ICU ward.I began my project by studiyng the part of the ventilator that connects to the patient. After I had been working with the project for some time I started to realise that what I was refering to as an important part of the medical ventilator, was just seen by others as a “tube”. I decided to change the roles, and to work only on the tube, and not on the rest of the apparatus. When I made this discourse shift, I tried to understand why the tube had been neglected in medical design. The tube is de facto an essential part of the ventilator. It is the important link between the patient and the apparatus, and without it, there is no treatment. Despite of this, the ventilator tube is not prioritised in medical design. I used gender theory about hierarchy of power and work division to understand this matter and concluded that the patient has low status in hospital care. Technical intensive care has high status, while patient related care as geriatric care has low status. In similar manner the hierarchy exists in the medical ventilator. The part of the product that contains the technology has high staus, while the part that is low tech and connected to the patient, the ventilator tube, has low status.My combined theoretical and explorative aesthetic approach didn’t only prove to change the gestalt, allowing for bodily form that challenges the constructed dichotomy of the hospital discourse. It also changed the entire focus on the product by making the tube central. It also inspired for a solution moving from a visual interface to a haptic and tactile interface. Some questions this design project attempts to discuss: What does it mean to give bodily form to this medical design project? How does the use of a tactility and haptics interface on a surface that may resemble a soft body help response from the staff and relatives as they encounter with the patient? In what way can the medical design process develop in a way to help patients regain humanity

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