Skilled Practitioners and Concrete Cabbages

It is always nice to see something come to fruition. This is especially true of a Ph.D thesis, the production of which I often liken, in terms of its experience quotient, to the excretion of a concrete cabbage. 

So I was happy to be contacted by Kyle Kilbourn, the first intern at Digital Health's labs in Europe in 2006, shortly after we set up the social science and design teams. He made a stirling contribution to a wonderful project we did exploring the material culture of ageing in Ireland. It was our first opportunity to conduct fieldwork in the country, so acted as a first 'blooding' and we learned lots about ageing, health and independent living which for many of us was a new area of investigation. 

Kyle has just completed his PhD defence, successfully, although he is now working at IDEO in Boston. His thesis:"The patient as skilled practitioner – A design anthropology approach to enskilment in health and technology" draws on some of that work in Ireland, and seems influenced by the time he spent with Tim Ingold and others at Aberdeen, 

Kyle may, on the recommendation of the examiners, publish the thesis so he's not widely circulating it at this time but very smartly he's making it available, all nicely printed and bound via Lulu. What a great idea. Here's the link – a bargain at about $8. 

And the abstract:
 
The location of healthcare has oscillated between home and hospital over the centuries.  In each movement aspects of a particular practice carry over into the next.  This dissertation looks at the current shift towards care at the hands of “patients” and challenges the hidden work such a concept enforces.  The patient as skilled practitioner refers to the ways these people become skilled in self-care through the use of medical devices in their everyday life.  Introducing empirical material from medical areas as diverse as hemodialysis, diabetes and aging, this thesis argues for a design anthropology approach to enskilment.  Design experiments span along with anthropological theory of skilled practice, aesthetics of everyday life and perception, woven into multi-sited research project.

 
Theoretical contributions include a design-orientated knowledge of enskilment in which environment structuring, meaning-making and situated bodily learning form the foundation.  In designing for enskilment, the potential strategies of spectrum for cooperating, gaps for growing, and platforms for performativity are introduced.  The dissertation provides a contextually nuanced understanding of interaction in healthcare and crafts future research potentials in which technology may respect the skilled practice of self-care practitioners.