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Messy realities project 1 © University of Oxford

A project exploring the effect of different medical and care technologies on people’s everyday lives has been awarded an Involvement and Engagement prize from the NIHR School for Primary Care Research.

The 'Impactful Contribution in Patient and Public Involvement and Engagement' prize recognises outstanding and meaningful engagement between researchers, patients and the public. 

Dr Gemma Hughes, a health services researcher in the Nuffield Department of Primary Care Health Sciences, received first prize at this year's awards for the 'Messy Realities' project, which brought together researchers, museum professionals and community members to provoke debate on meaning of technology, using the Pitt Rivers Museum collections to facilitate discussion.

Conceived as part of the Wellcome-funded SCALS (Studies in Co-creating Assisted Living Solutions) study, Gemma and her colleagues are researching how assisted living technologies can help people with health and social care needs, particularly whether these technologies have the potential to enable independent and safe living.

Through a series of workshops with community members, the Messy Realities project connected museum collections with these contemporary technologies to stimulate discussions and generate provocative answers and further questions that formed the basis of a co-curated display in the Pitt Rivers Museum.

Awarded at the NIHR SPCR Showcase in London this week, the judges valued the collaborative, inclusive and creative approach and how Gemma captured the impact of her project.

Podcast series

The project team recently launched a podcast series about the project, with conversations between the team of health service researchers, museum experts and community members involved in Messy Realities.

The six podcasts delve deeper into the topic of assisted living technology and sees the team going behind the scenes at the Pitt Rivers to learn more about the care and ethics involved in conversation, explore how everyday objectives support health and wellbeing, and discuss the protective power of amulets, alarms, jewellery and robots.

The Messy Realities project is a collaboration between the Interdisciplinary Research into Health Sciences Group and the Pitt Rivers Museum.

Listen to the first episode here: 

Podcast series: Messy Realities - the Secret Life of Technology

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