Digital Brain Switch
The Digital Brain Switch (DBS) project was a collaboration between Lancaster University; the Open University; Royal Holloway, University of London; and the University of Kent.
The project looked at how people switch between different work-life roles – parent, spouse, friend, co-worker, manager, employee – and how digital technologies either support this or act as a barrier.
In the age of modern communications, we all switch between multiple different roles on a daily basis. And these switches can be very rapid – one minute, we might check in with our friends on Facebook; the next we switch to work email; a minute later we go to Twitter where we see both work- and leisure-related information. How do we manage these very rapid switches? Do these rapid switches cause problems that we find hard to deal with? Or have we achieved a seamless integration of work and life where our various roles can co-exist?
The team undertook interviews and video diaries with 45 social entrepreneurs, office workers, and students. They also developed new digital tools including the ’squeeze diary’ (allowing a user to squeeze a sensor to record an instance e.g. of role ‘switching’), and the MyLifeRocket tool where users could undertake ‘experiments’ on their daily lives.
Members of the DBS team have co-led a number of Balance Network activities, including the creation of dissemination videos.
Digital Epiphanies was a collaboration between University College London; the University of Aberdeen; Bristol University and Anglia Ruskin University.
This project seeks to enhance our understanding of the paradoxical and double-edged effects that new technologies and digital practices are having on work-life balance, with both positive and negative effects.
The team were particularly interested in how technologies might be used to support reflection on our digital behaviours (and possible “digital epiphanies”).
The project’s mixed-methods approach included: work with 15 families in North-East Scotland, shadowing domestic life, and undertaking video ethnography and visual/written diaries; experimental work with small groups on personal informatics, social media and email usage; national surveys investigating self-reflection, wellbeing and technology use; and a follow-on impact project with organisation Think Productive.
Members of the Digital Epiphanies team have co-led the Balance Network’s life-swap workshops, and microboundaries study.
Family Rituals 2.0
The Family Rituals 2.0 project was a collaboration between Newcastle University; Bournemouth University; the Royal College of Art; and the University of the West of England.
During the project’s developement process, the research team identified the daily rhythms and behaviours of family life, namely family rituals, as key features of prosaic family experience that may come into conflict with workplace demands, especially in the digital era of being on-line or contactable at any time. It was felt that in efforts to support work-life balance a deeper understanding of the evolving nature of family rituals within the digital age was required.
Through interviews with human resource managers from 15 organisations and 24 mobile workers (including family interviews) they investigated how employers considered the experiences of their employees who travel away for work.
The team also developed a set of playful and provocative Ritual Machines, the result of design-led ethnographic case studies with five participating families.
Each machine was specifically designed to live with a particular family for up to eight weeks, linking to their specific domestic rituals and their attitudes towards home, work, separation and reunion.
Members of the Family Rituals 2.0 team have co-led the Balance Network’s Material Desires, Conversation Pieces, and Going off the Grid activities.