Future health: Oslo and the ‘a-ha’ moment

Our University of Oslo scenarios for the future of schools, out this week, surfaced health, and perceptions of health, as a battleground between parents and institutions in the education sector of 2050.

This was an “a-ha” moment for university researchers seeking new issues to explore around the digitalisation of education.

In scenario planning, we don’t aim to predict the future, but rather to generate plausible visions which can usefully inform present-day decision-making.

The future stories we create together are intended to highlight issues and drivers which exist in the present; the future scenario can then be set aside in order to focus on the issue at hand.

For the Oslo education researchers, a world in which parents and institutions warred over children’s health in a heavily-surveilled society – bickering with ‘the algorithm’ even over when to wipe your child’s nose – highlighted the extent to which their research should explore questions of health and wellbeing.

Today, in the Norwegian news, we see a parent-led Facebook group urging the city to close schools while the municipal authorities maintain that there is no reason yet to do so.

The campaigners argue that if businesses are sending staff home, then young children – who are less able to follow guidelines on infection control, like coughing into your elbow – should certainly go back to their families too.

Questions of distance learning, and education via screens and digital devices, may be sharpened by the current pandemic – even for the youngest children.

How will coronavirus affect the way we teach and learn, in the short and long term? Could it impact even the youngest children, irrespective of whether they contract the disease?

Good foresight work can help communities, institutions, and individuals navigate such turbulent and uncertain situations. You can read more about the Oslo education scenarios project here.

What exactly is Library Island anyway?

I’ve spent a fair chunk of the last two years working on something called “Library Island”. You might have seen photos, videos, or social media posts appearing online as university staff, health workers, museum professionals, students, and, yes, librarians take part in this interactive training activity.

Later this year, a free CC-licensed print-and-play kit for Library Island will be released, so that people anywhere can take this activity and use it with their institutions, companies, and communities.

But what exactly is Library Island? Read on to find out… Read more

Bex Twinley: The Dark Side of Occupation

Occupational therapists (OTs) are among my favourite professionals to work with. These allied health practitioners have a unique and often overlooked take on the world – the “occupational lens” – through which they understand human experience in terms of our occupations: the things we want, need, and have to do in our lives.

Today’s therapists and occupational scientists understand that human lives are comprised of occupations; that occupations can become dysfunctional and harmful; and that occupation itself can become a way of offering therapy and putting things right.

Bex (Rebecca) Twinley of Plymouth University is an occupational science researcher who coined the phrase “dark side of occupation”. Health professionals have traditionally and understandably focussed on occupations which they see as positive and productive for individuals, groups, and communities. Yet when we think of the total sum of human occupation, its many facets must include dark – meaning less explored – sides, too.

What happens when occupational science chooses not to look away from those facets, and instead pays attention to the darkness?

Bex:

Occupational therapy as a profession has always been focussed on links to health and wellbeing, identifying and supporting those occupations which are healthy to do.

The reality is that people don’t engage in positive occupations all of the time – yet these are not spoken about in our literature or explored in much of our practice. This limits the authenticity of the understanding between client and practitioner.

Matt:

I imagine that there is also some scope for debate about who gets to define health and wellbeing, and what institutional values are imposed by the health system. (It’s making me think of that Radiohead song, “Fitter Happier”).

What drew you to the notion of this “dark side” of occupation?

Read more

DNAInfo

I surfaced from my holiday to hear that Joe Ricketts, CEO of the news sites DNAInfo and Gothamist, has closed both enterprises a week after staff decided to unionize with the Writers Guild of America.

The abrupt move has shut down the sites entirely, so that even archived news stories are now unavailable.

I only wrote a couple of times for DNAInfo, but they were a place of welcome for me in New York and gave me valuable experience putting together local news stories through words and pictures.

Both the pieces I created for them, on New York-Presbyterian Hospital’s Reach Out and Read programme and the NYC Kids Food Festival, explored projects at the junction of literacy, culture, play, health and wellbeing – a place I still work today with Australian organisations like Metro South Health Board and the Griffith University School of Allied Health.

I’m grateful to the DNAInfo team for the kindness and collegiality they showed me on my visits to New York, and hope that all of their reporters and editors move on to better and brighter things.

New Marvels, New Lenses: A Podcast

What can relatively young disciplines like information science and the allied health professions tell us about society and pop culture?

This weekend I hosted a podcast featuring scientist-turned-literary-editor Yen-Rong Wong, librarian Rachel Merrick, and occupational therapist Amelia DiTommaso, all based in Brisbane, Australia.

On the eve of a new exhibition at Queensland’s Gallery of Modern Art, these three creative professionals got together to explore Marvel’s superhero movies through new lenses informed by their expertise and experience.

Focusing on Doctor Strange (2016), the discussion embraced magic, mystery, science, history, identity, culture, politics, heroism, and lots of laughter.

From the history of Australian censorship to the dark side of healthcare, challenges in identity and representation, plus the arcane mysteries of  “readers’ advisory”, listen now for a mind-expanding journey.

The Gentle Art of World Domination: Occupational Therapy, Art, and Information Science

During my time in Brisbane, I’ve been working with the School of Allied Health at Griffith University to push the boundaries of what’s possible when training occupational therapists.

We’ve used play, storytelling, and even delicious cake to explore the skills and values of therapists in both real and imagined community settings.

You can read about these collaborations over at Library as Incubator, in my piece “The Gentle Art of World Domination“.

Peace for the Immortal Sock Monkey

My friend Stevie made the sock monkey – a placid purple chap with chubby limbs and buttons for eyes. He seemed pretty satisfied with existence, but his deeper woes had gone unseen.

Two Student Occupational Therapists from Griffith University pose with their client, an immortal sock monkey

It turned out that the sock monkey was cursed to live forever, and as the centuries rolled by, he was succumbing to despair. Two students from the Occupational Therapy course at Australia’s Griffith University decided to help, using their professional skills to explore ways of reconciling him to a happier immortality.

Read more

Becoming death literate – panel discussion

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After Brisbane’s first Deathfest – a microfestival which explores, challenges, and celebrates our understanding of death, dying, and bereavement – I’m pleased to share a panel discussion which addressed grief, death, and end-of-life care in modern-day Queensland.

Joining me were Fiona Hawthorne, general manager at Hummingbird House, Queensland’s first children’s hospice; Ian Mellor, who manages body bequests for Queensland University of Technology; and Dr Sarah Winch, healthcare ethicist at the University of Queensland and author of Best Death Possible.

In an age when literacy has come to mean so many things – always with a sense of empowering people to read or make sense of some new terrain, topic, or experience – what would it mean for us to become truly “death literate”?

You can listen to the panel discussion now by clicking on this link or visit the State Library website.

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For more on healthcare and wellbeing work during my Queensland residency, read  “On Health and Wellbeing” and “Giant Robots Need Therapy Too“.

For more on Deathfest, visit the Metro Arts website.

Brisbane Deathfest 2016

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This weekend sees the launch of Deathfest, Brisbane’s week long microfestival which explores, challenges, and celebrates our understanding of death, dying, and bereavement.

I sat down for a special panel discussion with three guests to discuss grief, death, and end-of-life care in modern-day Queensland.

Joining me were Fiona Hawthorne, general manager at Hummingbird House, Queensland’s first children’s hospice; Ian Mellor, who manages body bequests for Queensland University of Technology; and Dr Sarah Winch, healthcare ethicist at the University of Queensland and author of Best Death Possible.

We talked about green burials, rituals of death in the 21st century, and the largely hidden processes, procedures, and institutions which deal with death in our society.

In an age when literacy has come to mean so many things – always with a sense of empowering people to read or make sense of some new terrain, topic, or experience – what would it mean for us to become truly “death literate”?

Our discussion will be online soon.

For more on healthcare and wellbeing work during my 2016 Queensland residency, read  “On Health and Wellbeing” and “Giant Robots Need Therapy Too“.