Maternal Machines: Design Speculations about Fantasies of Care 

A design research project, funded by Wellcome [grant ref. 300080/Z/23/Z]

In November 2023 I was awarded a Wellcome EC Research Award grant for the design research project Maternal Machines: Design Speculations about Fantasies of Care, starting in February 2024. The research will use speculative design approaches to interrogate, imagine, identify  and visualise design scenarios and opportunities with AI and emergent technologies in experiences related to maternal and infant care.

Speculative design has made useful contributions through critical interrogations of technology and its implications in society. While notions of family and reproduction are changing, dominant representations in design and technology still depict conventional and idealised situations. As AI and related technologies increasingly become entangled in spaces of care, it becomes particularly important to explore ways in which they might address diversely complex and subjective experiences and to consider the imagined scenarios, fears, fantasies and expectations held by a diversity of affected stakeholders.

Centering on a series of workshops with new parents and with researchers and practitioners working in design and technology, AI and ethics, medical humanities and maternal health, this proposal will use speculative design to investigate imaginaries, possible scenarios, opportunities and implications about emergent technologies related to maternal and infant care, considering ways in which artificially intelligent systems and other more-than-human elements can be entangled actors in this space.

Utilising the design practices of drawing, multidisciplinary collaboration, speculative design ideation and affected users’ participation, this research will explore ideated situations and design opportunities to support diverse forms of wellbeing. 

Steering Commitee:
- Maria Luce Lupetti, Politecnico di Torino
- Joseph Lindley, Lancaster University
- Victoria Bates, University of Bristol
- Matt Malpass, University of the Arts London

Aims of the research:

  • To visualise new parents’ imaginaries around AI and related technologies, including those from underrepresented groups.
  • To speculate about the design opportunities and implications of artificially intelligent and related technologies in spaces of maternal and infant care.
  • To explore understandings of care through interrogations of designs and technologies of care in collaboration with stakeholders from design, human-computer-interaction, AI and ethics, medical humanities and maternal health.
  • To speculate, design or visualise design opportunities that might lead to diverse forms of wellbeing for relevant stakeholders.

My research will run for four years and will be hosted at University of the Arts London, Central Saint Martins.

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