Safe Spaces for Raw Research by Marissa Cummings

When carrying out research, how do we capture and design for emotional, sometimes painful, experiences? This talk explores a case study of a respectful, inclusive approach for creating safe spaces within human-centred design when working with people with chronic health conditions.

This talk focuses on approaches for creating safe spaces to research emotional topics in ways that equip, enable, and empower research participants from vulnerable populations. Over the past year, I have been carrying out a research project on digital design for health storytelling with people with chronic health conditions, working closely with participants to co-create visual representations of tools to record their health story with the aim of improving their personal wellbeing and addressing health inequalities. I will use this project as a case study to show how we can take a personalised approach to human-centred design which creates a safe space for participants to articulate difficult, complex, and emotional experiences. I will go on to discuss methodological approaches from diverse disciplines which can be used to tackle and interpret emotional research, how to deal respectfully with participant logistics, and also how we as researchers can position ourselves within these contexts. The talk will cover the process of approaching respectful design from the initial methodological design to final outcomes, closing with some reflections on the pros and cons of this approach and thoughts from participants.

Marissa Cummings wearing a blue jumper and white hat. She is smiling at the camera.

Marissa Cummings

Screenshot of a website landing page which has different panels going horizontally. Each is labelled with a different part of the chronic pain journey.

Landing page to the health storytelling website

Marissa's bio

Marissa currently works as a Research Fellow and Digital Designer with The Glasgow School of Art, as part of the Digital Health & Care Innovation Centre. She has previously worked in a variety of digital roles, including web developer, usability analyst, UI designer, and product manager. Marissa’s approach focuses on how technology can act as a helping hand, supporting people in their everyday lives. She is passionate about diversity, inclusion, and accessibility.