︎ The Research

︎ Current thoughts

︎Research state of the arts
This research contributes to the shaping of Design for Mental Health, which is currently missing as a discipline. The research takes a participatory and speculative design approach to devise a framework to design for relational healing from Eating Disorders (ED).

The framework used in this investigation is a combination of a speculative design-oriented approach, participatory action research to a new materialist onto-epistemology. The aim is to problematize and re-describe what is a mental disorder, in order to include what is usually left out from mental disorders treatments discourse and designing back into the disorder’s excluded assemblage the capacity to attune to healing. This process could show and inform us about our everyday life fabric and how could it look like, if the responsibilities of healing from mental disorders would be materially and relationally distributed.

The following are the questions this research aims to answer:
What actually is an Eating Disorder and how does it distribute beyond the bodily boundaries of an individual? How do you design for relational healing? How would the fabric of our society, materially and immaterially change if we had to design spaces, places, encounters and situations to accommodate the space for healing?

The model to understand mental disorders has historically shifted from biomedical to recognizing how socio-cultural factors play a role into the emergence of a mental disorder, however the bodily boundaries of patients are still the site of psychological interventions, despite individual bodies carry the symptoms of larger societal issues. By adopting a new materialist perspective, one can rethink of what a body is and consequently of what a mental disorder is made of: if the body is a relational assemblage of affects and heterogeneous entities (human and non-human), a mental disorder can be re-described as an affective ecology distributed throughout our socio-material fabric.
Eating Disorders are the focus of this investigation. They are described through its mostly visible eating and bodily disordered practices and as stubborn disorders. However, they have been usually stubbornly treated with rarely changing methods, while excluding body shapes from treatments, historical patients’ recovery narratives and transdisciplinary lenses, collaborations and inputs. Nonetheless ED have also been analyzed considering the familial, socio-economic and cultural context in which they emerge, a playful approach into looking and re-thinking of those contexts have been missing.

By using participatory design methods, I aim to follow materially attuned narratives of recovered individuals to re describe these disorders as affective assemblage and how have they been carefully waved throughout the materiality of society. This will inform a framework for relational healing from ED, by design.
The design and the healing processes share capacities. Healing is the capacity of a relational self that attends to new material encounters, fold in new experiences to allow to assert differently while design allows for agency and embodiment (Renedo et al., 2020), it allows for relational change, and it elicits new realities.
The final part of the research will see the designing of workshops to propose contextual, relational and transactional re-design of the materiality from which the disorder arises.

Thank you Sonya Renee Taylor for your mind opening work and for inspiring me in using “Radical Self-Love” as the title of my dissertation project.
Taylor, S. R. (2021). The body is not an apology: The power of radical self-love.

︎State of the arts in design


Renedo Illarregi, E., Alexiou, K., & Zamenopoulos, T. (2019). Why designing may help treat psychosis. In International Association of Societies of Design Research Conference 2019 Proceedings.

© Silvia Neretti, 2021