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The Prayer Companion

Professor Mark Blythe

The Poor Clares are an order of Roman Catholic nuns founded in 1212 by St. Clare of Assisi and St. Francis of Assisi.

The majority of the nuns are in this abbey are in their eighties and working with them made it very clear that older people are not a homogenous group. Many projects seek to investigate ways in which technologies might help older people. The Sisters of Poor Clares are nuns before they are older people and their values and beliefs had profound impacts on the design work that led to the Prayer Companion.

You can visit Mark's website and view his photo albums showing a tour of the monastery and the Prayer Companion or “Goldie” developed in collaboration with Goldsmiths Interaction Research Studio.

Like the Franciscan Friars, the Poor Clares take vows of poverty, chastity and obedience. They also take a vow of enclosure, devoting their lives to prayer and manual labour. Apart from Sister Peter, the nuns only leave the convent when required e.g. to visit the doctor. They greet guests from behind a counter in a separate anteroom, and can visit with family and close friends in a lounge area just outside enclosure. Since the monastery was established the life of the nuns has followed the same routine. They rise at 5:30 unless it is a feast day or a holiday when they sleep in till 6:00. They say the Divine Office (psalm or scripture readings) five times a day and celebrate mass at noon. Their work includes packaging Eucharist wafers for distribution around the country as well as maintaining the monastery and gardens in which they grow their own food.

Following several months of in depth ethnographic interviews with the sisters the design team at Goldsmiths Interaction Studio developed the Prayer Companion. The Prayer Companion takes RSS feeds from news and other online sources and displays them on a 3D device in the shape of a T shaped cross.  It has become a part of the furniture in the abbey and the news items it displays regularly informs their prayer life helping, as they put it, to keep their prayer pertinent. Occasionally power cuts require some maintenance work and the Extern Sister has become quite expert.

To find out more visit Mark's website here: The Prayer Companion