Transforming the Way Food Appears in a Social Context
Paul Marshall is a lecturer in interaction design. His research interests centre on the concept of embodied interaction and how it can be applied to the design and evaluation of technologies that extend and augment individual human capabilities. This has included work on physical interaction and tangible interfaces; on technologies for face-to-face collaboration; on the design of technologies to fit specific physical contexts; and on extended cognition and perception.
At the workshop, I presented some work carried out by Sangita Ganesh at UCL as part of a summer student internship. She had designed a series of video concept sketches of ways to digitally augment food. The goal was to encourage playful interactions to encourage children who are fussy eaters to finish their food. For example, she wondered if changing the appearance of vegetables might change the way they taste.
One of the issues that Sangita has been thinking about is how to engage different family members in this activity, so that it isn’t just about the child interacting with the technology at the dinner table, but rather about the technology integrating with and adding to the existing social practices of family mealtimes.
This focus on social experience really chimed with the parts of the workshop that were the highlights for me: the use of sound to make chocolate taste more bitter or sweet by Caroline Hobkinson; the discussion of how things like the shape of a glass or temperature can significantly change the flavour of wine, led by Barry Smith; and most of all the chef, Nathan, cooking in front of us at the table and talking about the history and ideas behind each dish as well as his own passion for cooking. Each of these experiences was memorable because of the social context in which they occurred: led by an enthusiastic expert and shared with the other workshop attendees.
A real challenge that I see for designers of technologies to augment eating practices is to design systems that integrate elegantly into these kinds of social contexts, where the technology isn’t the focus in itself, but supports people in sharing their own excitement and expertise about food and cooking.