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You and me and everyone we know: The many faces of care

The Challenge: 

The Question: 

How do we even begin to explore care?

The Problem: 

Care is a huge and diverse topic

The Solution: 

Finding a common vocabulary and many different approaches


Today I had the pleasure of meeting and introducing students from GWK and UDK to the OpenCare project themes and the design (presentation slides available here). What follows are my notes from the final round of discussions in an intense day. Each quote is the transcription of what one individual said. I will be writing a separate post, or possibly even series of posts as the conversations were very rich and offered a lot of things to think about and explore around care.

“It was a good experience, I liked meeting people from different backgrounds and the possibility for working together… Discovering what we each are good and not good at, and how they can fit together.  As well as what these different backgrounds creates as a perspective towards the project”

“For me exploring new projects and ways of working is not new, so changing my setup is not new. Converting ideas to communities. Setting up a framework that people can work within. But for product designers is not the case. I could understand Nadia’s language well..It could be good to translate the language and vocabulary used by the OpenCare project into language easier to use for product designers. Designers are mostly visual, other disciplines less so. Some bridging of languages could be helpful.”

“We were discussing the questions on the wall- what care means on fundamental level to us. Under which conditions care is being granted in a community and what that means for us. When discussing integration of people into a group, the separation you make in the beginning affects the integration project...You say there is an external person who should adapt to the community itself, instead of thinking about creating something new from scratch out of the welcoming community and new individials. Especially when you talk about always do the labelling that there is someone who needs help, and I am one to provide help. Maybe getting rid of these labels is important. Also we talked about how social relations to certain people are necessary for providing some kinds of care. And how to solve challenges of providing care for people we don’t already know. You touch people physically (as we did in the opening session today) and it changes relationship immediately e.g. free hugs in public spaces: This changes something very fast. Especially in regards to refugee topic….Before helping there should be a contact, a communication with people before offering help whether you know they need or not.”

“ We started different no thinking about projects, but our own experiences being people on the move. 

  • Being somewhere where you chose to go
  • Being somewhere you didn't’ pick: job, being refugee,  being moved by it affects your mindset

What is the difference between these two in terms of care on the move?
One person was talking about being in china for job of her father to experience completely difft culture and not being free to decide to go there….vs choosing to move to a new city voluntarily in a city where many different cultures in Kreuzberg. Just getting to know different food and culture at a very young age and getting to know this in a playful way without much prejudice in your head”

“We started off by talking about situations in our lives where we have given care, or seen other people receiving care. Who are those people who have taken on traditional care of caregiving? We quickly started talking about feminist issues and women being caregivers through history. We also talked about the rewards, how giving care is valued, if valued at all or you get financial remuneration…”

“We were all answering the question of why we chose the different topics and why we chose them. Mine was about being on the move and the point that is for me very importan is the idea of doing something fo the first time and you have to cope, no matter if you have to do a job or are always doing for the first time. Found a sory in newspaper about caregivers and they tried to set up school for nurses where they given puppets they have to be with for weeks before working with humans. Switch perspective. I found a flyer which was something like a manual for shopping in supermarket in the fifties..they were handing flyers out about how to behave and shop in he supermarket and now people are complaining about refugees not knowing  how to behave the first time...there is an arrogance... What is possible with products etc to switch perspective and lose embarrassment etc around doing something for the first time. People “misbehave” because. The first time I met a Syrian guy was during the refugee crisis, it was first time experience for both of us, no just him.”

“We were mostly talking about first time experience of meeting some guys from syria. How can we start meeting people on a high level and not relationship that we are giving, and they are receiving donations. That we are both receiving and giving care.”

“We started talking about experiences and what think about care, or what we need for our self to be cared for or give care. I found that we had really different ways of talking or explaining. I had difficulties to say what I was thinking and they only understood me when I made examples. And they totally understood me. But when Nema started talking, she could really articulate herself without giving examples. It’s really interesting as a product designer.”

“We talked about personal experiences. Because of this we came to many topics- like how it is to be a European or come from another continent. It was nice because we had an open chat with one another, so we had some long discussions. It was nice to hear about other people’s stories because sometimes you don’t talk about it for long, but when you do it for one hour and you have some perspectives on how to give care for refugees but also what it’s like to be a foreigner in Germany.”

“Unter sich haben sie die kulturellen Unterschiede nicht wirklich gemerkt, wenn man gemeinsam mit vielen Kulturen aufwaechst. Der einzige Unterschied, der immer da bleibt, und erfahrbar ist, ist der kulinarische Unterschied. Vielleicht ist die Perspektive eines Kindes die beste: Unvoreingenommen Dinge aufnehmen, ohne sie direkt zu beurteilen. Gerade als Kind ist es eine grosse Bereicherung, auf so viele unterschiedliche Kulturen zu treffen. Fuer die Erziehung und die Ausbildung der eigenen Persoenlichkeit ist es absolut foerderlich, in Konfrontation mit vielen Kulturen aufzuwachsen.”

“We had a discussion about “stranger danger”. Which I have recently been having with people from older generations. When it comes to refugee crisis , even people I know that normally would act very human and never put themselves above another suddenly are afraid when refugees come to the country. In part it is because of the lack of contact; they don’t come naturally to a place where exchange could happen in an uncontrived way. How could this be set up, or how could it happen? We talked about how younger people can be a connector, how it needs a connector...there are many of us who want to engage but don't because the connection is needed and doesn’t happen without being designed. When travelling connecting is very easy, but in your own town you rarely have deep conversations with people you don’t know. Openness as a mindset is very interesting to see how society is structured n our head. How this huge fear that comes out of nowhere. Media says you should have fear now, that the new is threatening. I love my Grandma but when it comes to this topic I think omg we should not even talk about this topic and I have no idea how to change things. I think it’s a lot of empathy, we had a huge was all about him not letting what’s happen...not wanting to feel it...keeping it theoretical. The next day there was a change of perspective. It’s also overwhelming for many people, related to make yourself vulnerable and allowing yourself to feel. It’s a very delicate and sensitive how to do this contact and get them in touch with their feelings.”

“We were talking about different languages. To map out what we can as GWK and product designers (UDK) and to figure out what is the responsibility towards what we are studying. Until now what designers were doing and what we were studying was just about making things beautiful. Are we even responsible towards building towards big visions the way  OpenCare is doing? As designers we are always looked upon in a very belittling way - as though we are not capable of contributing to the big issues. But I believe it is part of our responsibility as designers to do this work, because ideally we are focusing not on profiting from it but we can do it just to help. Everyone knows we should help, but no one really does it and people still have prejudices and discriminate. Not many of us know how it is to lead a refugee’s life. How many of us have been discriminated against? For me I was born in Germany, but for a moment I thought well all the refugee circus that is going on has nothing to do with me and I thought it is the responsibility of larger organisations like NGos and the Government to deal with...I asked myself what capacity do I realistically have to help. Then I realised that as someone born in Germany, I walk around the street I hear people discriminating against Asians. And I realised it does affect me, and it is my responsibility to help...It is about the right to be a creative and work not just for profit, but  to help others and how this is deeply human at its core.”

“I think it is always important to find new symbiotic relationships between people. One Project I’ve come across is one in which there were two groups: one group who wanted to learn English but didnt have connections to do so, and the other group was old lonely group from America. These two groups were able to talk to each other via skype. The Old people had the joy of talking to somebody who was interested in learning. And the young people learned English. It’s very nice to see people caring about each other that way.”

“For me it was very interesting to hear what makes something seem foreign and why we feel home. What makes this happen?”

“We were still thinking about what is th goal of being a designer and what is a design process...what is the difference to art or to management/managers job? We came to the point that an artist is focusing on showing problem and designer is trying to find solution and manager is more focused on company’s project and not so much on helping people. It’s a beginning of a discussion.”

“We were not talking about the differences between student areas. It was interesting seeing how there was a lot of variation in how interviews were conducted in the different groups as well as within the group were different. I think what I found was that we had very different styles of leading interviews and how different results. I realised I am used to lead an interview and how it has become my only way for me. And it was really interesting to see there are different kinds of ways to lead an interview. I learned how to lead interviews in design are asking for stories and ask 5 times why. It’s completely differnt thing when trying to understand a person. It was a very good experience. And apart from that my main insight is that care is always interactional, its not a one way street. The system of capitalism is making it a one way street because there s wlays money in and something out. It’s not evolutionary.”

“We talked about the relationships that we have with people from Syria that we know and the experiences we have with them. We try to know why German people are so scared of foreigners and why the German people are sometimes so closed also in a friendship. For example my first time was not so easy to make friends here, german people are really closed the first time..they are not so open to stangers.”

“It was really intersting hearing about your experiences and the difficulties you had. Very interesting to talk from a personal perspectives and the fears you have.”

“We discussed the five questions we were given. What I noticed te most that care is a very difficult term. We couldn;t find a term for care in german. This is one part that makes the discussion very interesting but also very difficult. A whole lot of people are going in a direction towards the refugee topic, that seems to be very close to people. I heard about a book from two journalists about political language: some words and terms that are used are producing certain realities. When you use some words regularly especially in the media, it becomes a reality and then there is no alternative. Translating care into a german word, and speaking about it means very different thing.” 

“We also tried to approach the topic from a more general angle, what care really means for us. We came to conclusion that care, giving and receiving, is a basic human need and a human right. It’s not a one-way street, but we need to talk about care as a devalued thing in our society. There are people who really love to give are and do not have the right to get something for it. We thought about how to make people who give care more visible. How can we provide some kind of reward or value for the volunteers. And of course we went in the feminist direction but I think it is a really important thing to value care as a huge thing in society.”

“Care which we translated into Pfleger. Has not only to do with caring about other people and also for yourself. Is it important to care for yourself first or the other way around? It’s a challenge to care for huge number of people at once. Monetization and how it affects our view on people around us: that we cannot be more intuitive because we think about how we can be most effective.This question where german politicians are saying we have to take care of our people, and not just give everything away. Same thing at a different scale. We have to look at how we distributed in different ways. I would like to see politicians say how they care for themselves, I would like to see them living a lifestyle which shows people how to live a healthy life.”