High Tea at the Conviviality Café: Research Tool or Design Intervention?

Ann Light, Andrew Milligan, Lowri Bond, Linsey McIntosh, Carol Botten

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperpeer-review


The AHRC Connected Communities & Design funded project, FLEX: Flexible Dwellings for Extended Living project explored how we might age convivially, and differently at home. An ageing population and spiraling costs of care suggest that a challenge is living well at home for longer. And with the loss of meeting places, there is a need to ask what a serendipitous social life now looks like for people as they retire and beyond. How might people adapt their homes and lifestyles to experience the well-being of staying in touch with the neighbourhood as other horizons shrink? What are the private/ public boundaries in sharing space and other resources? And what divides ‘convivial’ from ‘invasive’?In response to concerns about an ageing British population, we looked at social factors of well-being in the ambient realm of neighbourhood encounters. We report on how we asked our industry research and lay person participants in Newcastle, north England, and Dundee, Scotland, about their understanding of conviviality, using a café environment and co-design props to inspire a relaxed and friendly exchange of views over tea and to elicit conversations and insights. We consider the way that questions were designed into the two courses of the meal and ask: is this perhaps a form of research-through-design for social contexts? Certainly, participants responded to the environment and subtle questioning style. And we draw a contrast between this form of designing - for use in research - and the more summative purpose of the exhibits that also came out of the project.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages215
Publication statusPublished - 5 Sep 2013
EventPraxis + Poetics: Research Through Design - The Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art, Newcastle , United Kingdom
Duration: 3 Sep 20135 Sep 2013


ConferencePraxis + Poetics
CountryUnited Kingdom
Internet address


  • Ageing
  • social design
  • probes
  • questions
  • conviviality

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