We asked a group of UCL Master's students to examine questions of food and eating together in a different way.
As part of our ongoing work looking at the future of food and eating together, we asked a group of UCL Master's students to examine questions of food and eating together in a different way. They came up with an original idea for visualising different workplace eating options, which we will be using as part of the planning for our move to new premises at the end of 2016.
This is a guest blog by UCL students Rosa Grossman, Tiffany Lee, Sakti Ramadhan and Hilary Prosser.
Last winter, Nesta encouraged our group of students in UCL's Design Anthropology Master's programme, to think about the futures of food. We worked to think about the repeatedly explored world of eating and well-being from an “alternative” perspective.
After our initial process of eliminating related topics, we narrowed it down to the current lunchtime eating behaviour of working individuals and speculating on the future possibilities. We started with sample groups of working professionals (with an age range of 20-60) from Brazil, Indonesia, South Korea, and the United Kingdom, to gather similar habits from contrasting cultures. Through individual interviews and group observations, we focused on recurring patterns related to environment, food, time availability, sociality and local cultural aspects.
Our findings and conclusions revealed:
Daniel Miller, an anthropologist, introduced us to the term ‘scalable sociality’ in 2016, which is the idea that the larger the party, the less individual preferences would weigh in. As this was prominent in the lunchtime behaviours we studied, we used this as our key concept in assembling our analysis. We designed a board named the “Cartogram of Commensality” to visualize and stimulate out-of-the-box thinking for the possible future of workplace lunches.
The islands represent typical dining choices around a workplace and are materialized as ‘moods’:
The boats represent the different social configurations:
The companies represent three fictitious companies that encompass general characteristics we identified in our research:
The purpose of the “Cartogram of Commensality” is to help companies and individuals illustrate the current situations and think about potential ideas to modify workplace lunches for the future according to the constant changes in the social norm. It promotes maximum creativity without the risks.
The possibilities are infinite, an entirely underwater system creating shortcuts to island could be constructed, or “moving” islands and re-arranging the locations of workplaces versus dining options, or mutating (stacking) smaller vessels to create larger vessels, so forth. By physically seeing the elements move around the board, the most unexpected prospects can be imagined and implemented. We encourage companies and individuals to be creative.
If you would like to know more about the project or the Cartogram, please get in touch.