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D:STEM – Future Ways of Living and the opportunities afforded through ‘Soft’ technologies.

Innovations in Applied Material Science that meet Creative Design to help make life healthier, safer, more convenient and less stressful. How best therefore to support  human centric needs and create the greatest possible benefit and impact.

We are living in the age of electronics, bioscience and the promise of nanotechnology.  Together they constitute early 21st century materials convergence and, when coupled to Design fundamentals, provide a compelling platform to deliver applications in human centric needs, wishes and behaviours.  These manifest themselves through improvements in the way we investigate age related illness, mental wellness, medicine, personalised health monitoring, more sustainable transportation, beneficial consumer products and innovations in personal communication [Refs 1, 2, 3].

Within the Faculty of Art, Design & Social Sciences (FADDS) at Northumbria University we have created the Design:STEM Interaction Group within the School of Design, enabling us to explore compelling artefact, product and service pathways through the integration of soft responsive, stretchable, biocompatible material systems and fabrication expertise.  Such STEM materials and technologies can be readily coupled to new fabrication tools and methodologies to meet the development of ‘calm, ambient and personally meaningful technology’ and comformal polyvalent surfaces through  integration of miniaturisation and the potential of printed organic electronics. 

Craft Futures will foreground explorations into new making practices and methodologies that place the body and the human at the centre of the investigations.  Craft, as a very human driven form of making, will serve as the relational grounding for not only new material and fabrication and use developments, but also a vision of future ways of living.  How new technology and product developments that have true and valuable meaning and use for us will be a constant focus with the aim to go beyond a prescriptive intervention into our lives at point of medical need or as superfluous gadgetry to offer genuine human and lasting benefits.  ie Living with informed complexity to make our lives healthier, safer, more convenient and less stressfull.

Performance Products focuses on the body exploring the physical, emotional and mental potentials for individual somatic futures. To seek and create products and develop materials that form seamless and burdenless connection to an individual (calm technology) as well as personal bodily presence and experiential understanding of the world in current and future scenarios.  ie How to create practical Digital  - Physical Integration. In addition, by focusing on products that have greater meaning to the user we diminish waste by reducing the manufacture of speculative broad interest products.

Finally, by devising creative design that can integrate across the STEM axis (biology – electronics – materials), we hope to create tangible examples of how to provide a more beneficial approach to Future Ways of Living.

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