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RCA Presents Family Rituals 2.0 at the London Design Festival 2015

As part of London Design Festival, the Helen Hamlyn Centre at the Royal College of Art is pleased to present Family Rituals 2.0.

From 19 – 24 September 2015, the RCA presents a new exhibition, Family Rituals 2.0 as part of the London Design Festival. This exhibition is the culmination of a two year research project exploring the issues faced by families who spend a lot of time apart due to work. Visitors to the exhibition will be able to see a series of playful ‘Ritual Machines’, which have been created to bring families together when they are physically separated. The machines raise conversations on family life and what it means to be apart from it.

Led by Newcastle University and in collaboration with Bournemouth University and the University of the West of England, the Helen Hamlyn Centre at the RCA embarked on this project after a realisation that in order to support a work/life balance in a digitally dependent world, a deeper understanding of the evolving nature of family rituals within the digital world was needed. After initial research and consultations revealed that mobile working in the UK is on the rise, the project team focused on mobile working as this can have significant implications for work-life balance and family life. At the heart of Family Rituals 2.0 are the ritualised activities that surround mealtimes, bedtimes and other everyday domestic practices. The project went on to explore how technology might support inclusion in just such domestic rituals.

Responding to in-depth research with five families, each of the Ritual Machines on display is a bespoke design, intended for a specific family. Each design works differently and is created to respond to the unique rhythms and individual circumstances of its host family. One of the five machines on show is the ‘Drinking Together Whilst Apart Machine’, which was designed for a couple living in Scotland with their young son. They enjoy a drink together at the end of the day when their son is finally asleep and they can enjoy each other’s company. They are often separated for two or three days during the week by remote working in the financial sector, the ritual machine allows them to continue to connect on a level, as this Ritual Machine pours a glass of wine at home when a Bluetooth-enabled beer bottle opener is being used at a distant location. Another machine has been created for a parent who drives a lorry for work to hear messages from her children while stationary in traffic.

Dr Jo-Anne Bichard, senior researcher, the Helen Hamlyn Centre says: "Family Rituals 2.0 brings together expertise from a range of disciplines and is funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council. The project speculates on the potential role of technology in mediating well-being for complex family lives. Professor Ladkin from the University of Bournemouth explains that “While we don’t expect these designs to present a solution to the issue of mobile working and separation, we do hope that it will stimulate discussion about what home and family life means and what the effects of being separated from it are.”

For further information, feature interviews or images please contact Bethany Bull: +44 (0) 20 7590 4114, e: media@rca.ac.uk, or call +44 (0)20 7590 4123/4114