Research Blog

A messy problem

The seed of an idea was planted – that of formulating some kind of design research project.

Before anything else, I decided to visually map the problem space that Prof White described in his article – the various causes and effects surrounding what I’d begun to call sleep justice. I also wanted to include an area that Prof White hadn’t touched on: as well as supporting sleep-eroding work practices, capitalism also promotes leisure choices that seek to monopolise and monetise our down time.

Social media, games and other addictive technologies in our pockets and on our wrists; 24 hour shopping, whether online or in-person; round the clock food delivery; endless streaming of music or video. Our relaxing has become has exhausting as our labour and just as damaging for our sleep and our wellbeing.

Trying to make sense of this maze of causes and effects resulted in the following diagram:

A first attempt at making sense of the problem of sleep justice.

The next step was to brainstorm some possible ways that design could be used to intervene, and start to put them in categories:

How could design be used to promote change?

In separating these initial ideas into two columns, I’m not suggesting one is better than the other. If a person has acute insomnia, they need something that will start working asap and effectively address their symptoms. But that’s where so many current interventions stop. What’s needed are solutions that recognise the social and economic causes of sleep injustice and promote long-term structural change.

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