2. Caring Companion
Designer & Model: Dila Demir
Photography by: Nesli Hazal Oktay
Extended [Textile] Soma: Somaesthetics of Bodily Discomforts is the title of my doctoral research through which I explore how movement-based interactive textile wearables as soma extensions may facilitate somaesthetic awareness of musculoskeletal chronic pain through mediating explicated interactions of it. I define bodily discomforts as chronic bodily conditions that disrupts the everyday flow of the bodies such as migraine, fibromyalgia, irritable bowel syndrome, depression, chronic pain, etc. In my research, I specifically focus on musculoskeletal chronic pain as a bodily discomfort. On the other hand, I call movement-based interactive textiles that externalize the pain experience as soma extensions. Through soma extensions I mediate unhabitual interactions of pain as a way to reconnect with our diseased bodies, to find new ways of living and being with pain which is the somaesthetic awareness of pain. To scrutinize the main research question of this doctoral project, I conducted three creative case studies through which I examine different aspects of the main inquiry developing better understanding on the ways to explicate implicit bodily experiences and promoting somaesthetics of discomfort.
Caring Companion is the second creative case study of my Ph.D. research through which I explore how soma extensions may be designed to promote engaging interaction with people with chronic pain. Accoridngly, in this study I examine the ways of improving the bodily engagements of soma extension through learning about felt experiences of pain of others. I conducted a cultural probe kit study with five people living with musculoskeletal chronic pain. The kit included physical and digital items to cultivate participants’ felt experience of pain. The phsyical items were a soma extension (sound emitting wearable textile) , a journal, 12 body maps, 12-word lists consisting of 42 pain expressions, colored felt-tip pens, plasticine, a calendar, and a ‘how to use the kit’ booklet. The digital items are two yoga videos, one for the upper and one for the lower body pain, uploaded on YouTube and a sound file. The sound file consists of two sounds 1) squeaky wood sound representing pain and 2) atmospheric meditative sound representing relief from pain.
Participants used the kit for three weeks; they practiced yoga sequences by wearing the soma extension and documented their experiences using journal, body maps, word list and plasticine. I analyzed their visual and textual documentations of their lived experience with Caring Companion kit and as a result I formalized four design strategies to be applied for enhancing bodily engagements of soma extensions. These are 1) building a companionship, 2) unveiling the discomfort, 3) creating a room for improvisation and 4) supporting somatic engagements in daily life.