Working as a resident in the Design Lab has been a transformative experience—one that allowed me to further explore my initial research questions in an engaging and creative way. At the beginning of the year, I was solely interested in embarking upon a formal research project, however, by the end of the residency term, my project took on a life of its own—becoming an interactive piece in our Shapiro Design Lab Residency Exhibit.
Throughout my time in the Design Lab, I have been interested in exploring digital self-care. This topic arose from my current research interests and was cultivated throughout the first semester of our co-working/co-learning sessions. Given the incredible amount of technology and digital media that we interact with daily, I thought that it would be an interesting and very timely topic. When conducting preliminary searches and facilitating dialogues with my fellow residents about what digital self-care means, I often came across the phrase self-care in the digital age, which is the idea that self-care involves removing technology/digital media and logging off of social media. Basically, self-care is about unplugging and disengaging. While I agree that it is incredibly important to log off, unplug, and disengage, I became interested in how using particular types of social/digital media may foster community, empowerment, and self-care behaviors.
While this experience was extremely rewarding, it was also very challenging for me to step outside of a “research framework/mindset” to both entertain and immerse myself in a different kind of design process. However, through our weekly co-learning sessions, I found myself learning more about various aspects of curation, rituals, and participatory design, which fostered a sense of freedom to let my project be a new iteration and representation of my research. As someone who does not have a technology background, it was immensely beneficial to be in the Design Lab space because I was able to learn new skills related to my interests. For example, as someone who studies hashtag activism on social media, working closely with librarians (through advising and connections in the Design Lab) to retrieve hashtag and blog analytics on the Sysomos Platform for a research project outside of the lab, was a valuable experience. I truly feel like I was able to begin moving beyond my own methodological limitations—expanding my knowledge on how to acquire content online, conduct social media research, as well as utilize the skills I’ve gained to better inform the research questions that I hope to ask in the future.
The work that I have created and the skills that I have gained do not end here. I am considering pursuing a degree—in conjunction with my current degree program—to incorporate some of the data and technical skills that I have learned in the Design Lab. This dual degree consideration would not have been possible without the connections I have made through the Design Lab. Given how far I have come throughout the Design Lab residency, I am looking forward to continuing to engage in this work--challenging myself and growing as a scholar.