NMIMS-Harvard study to research behavioural data, help prepare better for future pandemics

Fourteen students from SOD’s BDes (Humanising Technology) programme participated in the study as field researchers, applying remote ethnography methods to gather data 
Representational image (Pic: Pixabay)
Representational image (Pic: Pixabay)

The COVID-19 pandemic almost came out of nowhere last year and while a large part of the world, especially India is reeling from the repercussions, experts are already thinking about the next pandemic and how to ensure that it causes the least possible damage. It is with this intention that NMIMS School of Design (SOD) has partnered with Design Laboratory (D-Lab), a collaborative initiative by Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health (HSPH) that is aimed at the application of design frameworks and methods to address the behavioural issues influencing public health. Through the research project, Remember Now, data that can help individuals and organisations prepare better for future pandemics will be gathered. 

Fourteen students from SOD’s BDes (Humanising Technology) programme participated in the study as field researchers, applying remote ethnography methods to gather data about how people are living, learning, working, and playing while coping with the COVID-19 pandemic, and to identify key barriers and drivers of behavioral change that could lead to meaningful insights. The research was undertaken with the guidance of Prof Manisha Phadke, Prof Sameer Tendulkar, and Dr Shreya Maulik, and in compliance with Harvard’s protocols.

The information gathered during the study will facilitate the design of objects, services and environments with built-in abilities to detect harmful pathogens and to support people in their daily lives. The research undertaken by SOD students for Remember Now has shed light on the Indian diaspora's diversity of cultural backgrounds and various prejudices. Learnings included the various conditions that influence how people interact with one another, how effectively they are able to adapt their lives to new public health protocols, the various ways people are currently incorporating rituals and celebrations into their lives, and their capacity to revisit various health aspects of their lives. The preliminary findings have been useful in better understanding how people from various socioeconomic groups and geographic locations maintain their identity, relationships, and contentment during this unusual period.   

Remember Now is one of three projects under the D-Lab initiative. Whole Life: Designing Life After COVID-19, which also includes Sketch Tomorrow, a series of brainstorming sessions that leverages expert experience and data from Remember Now to ideate solutions and Prototype Future, which aims to plan strategies to implement the ideas are the other two projects.

Prof Manisha Phadke, Director, NMIMS School of Design, said, “A designer's primary duty is to produce thoughtful, long-lasting designs that meet societal needs. As we all are fighting with the second phase of the pandemic and have no idea how long it will take to get back to some semblance of normal, it is incumbent upon the design community to come together and field the challenge of creating processes, services and products that will take into account the prospect of a changed world and all inherent risks.” Patrick Whitney and André Nogueira, core faculty members of the Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health expressed their delight about the quality of research.

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