Family Rituals - Family Four

September 2013 - September 2015

electronics, software, bespoke design, ethnography, openlab

Family Four is Lisa and Will, who live in Kent with their children: Alex (26), Oliver (16), Steve (12), Kevin (11), Billy (9) and Rachel (8). Lisa is a 'tramper', a long distance lorry driver working across the UK. She is away for up to 5 nights every week, sleeping overnight in the cabin of her truck. Her working week begins on Tuesdays and she returns home on Saturdays. Whilst Lisa is 'on the road', Will looks after the younger children at home. They are one of the five families we worked with in the Family Rituals 2.0 study.

We designed and built a bespoke technology for the family that would create moments of reflection for them; allowing us to talk about their work/life balance and their attitudes to working away from home. We framed this around the everyday rituals of the home, which are missed in this separation.

We got to know Lisa, Will, Alex, Oliver, Steve, Kevin, Billy and Rachel through interviews and the materials they generated from a set of cultural probes. For Lisa, and her family, we were immediately drawn to the lorry cab as a site for the interaction. This space operates both as work and home for Lisa for five nights a week, through the probe responses and interviews we got a sense of her complex relationship to this: the freedom of the road, the pressures of a making delivery times despite traffic, living with very basic amenities, in a male-dominated profession and the separation from her family with whom she stayed intimately involved whilst away. We were inspired by the cards and messages Lisa often finds hidden in her bag from home - these are welcome little mementoes from home that she cherishes.

A Message in a Jam allows the family at home to leave messages for Lisa that are automatically played when there is a traffic jam. Messages are spoken into a jam jar by removing the lid and played through a speaker in the cab. Hold-ups seriously impact Lisa's day and cause a good deal of stress in meeting tight delivery times. We wondered if we could make a counterpoint to this.

The jam jar contains custom electronics on a printed circuit board that records audio messages, illuminates the jar to show a message is contained and connects to WiFi to transfer the recording to the server. The speaker contains an Android phone using GPS to locate the lorry and measure its speed; in combination with online traffic services it determines if Lisa is currently in a traffic jam or not, replaying any messages new messages from the jam jar if she is.

Displayed at the Science Gallery's HOME\SICK Show (May 2015) and at the London Design Festival (September 2015).

This was developed at Open Lab, Newcastle University in collaboration with the Helen Hamlyn Centre for Design at the Royal College of Art, as part of the Family Rituals 2.0 project funded by the EPSRC.

Ethnography: Paulina Yurman, David Chatting.
Design: David Chatting, Paulina Yurman, David Kirk.
Fabrication: Paulina Yurman, David Chatting.
Electronics and Software: David Chatting.