What is Connectivity?

Modern families spend less time together than ever before - In Touch seeks to find new ways to connect with loved ones over distance. But what is the

Modern families spend less time together than ever before:

  • Twenty per cent of British families with children under the age of ten live over 100 miles away from their grandparents.
  • There are 2 million single parents in Britain today, of whom 60 per cent are in work.
  • Seventy per cent of US military personnel posted overseas have children.

This problem is at the very heart of our Object Sandbox: how can we reconnect people over distance?

All of the projects in the Objects Sandbox are somehow ‘connected’ by the Internet of Things. But what do we mean when we talk about being ‘connected’? Thousands of families live or work at a distance from their loved ones, using technology to ‘connect’ through phone calls, live video streaming and text messages. However, these exchanges are often unsatisfying – young children are easily distracted, and neither side feels truly connected to the other without being able to reach out and touch them. Technology’s capacity to connect us has not yet reached its full potential: it is for this reason that we seek to explore how to put people back ‘in touch’ in a way that truly connects over distance.

As we embark on this process, we bring together a range of different interests and expertise on ‘connectivity’. Dr Ki Cater works on Human-Computer Interactions, seeking to push the boundaries of technological innovation in this area. Dr Victoria Bates has an interest in the links between stories, communication and wellbeing, including reconsidering the common assumption that technology is an inherently ‘dehumanising’ force. Kinneir Dufort is an award winning innovation and design consultancy, working creatively on issues such as design, technology and user experience.

Together, we are thinking about ways to stay In Touch with loved ones over distance and are exploring a range of sensory interactions to accompany communication and storytelling. We would love to hear from people who currently communicate with young children over distance (contact the team via victoria.bates [at] bristol.ac.uk) – what technologies do you use? what is good about these and what is missing? what would make you feel more connected? Over the next few weeks we seek to develop a solution to some of these challenges, finding better ways to stay connected despite busy lives.