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Making digital personal: Bringing jewellery into the technological age

April 28, 2010
University, Newcastle
Dr Jayne Wallace is a jewellery designer with a difference - she works with individuals (her latest projects include working with Shetland fishermen and a couple with dementia) to create personal digital objects that are emotionally significant and beautiful rather than simply something to throwaway when the latest version comes along.

Dress brooch: Gillian, the case study, holds a brooch made out of a swatch of fabric from one of her 60s dresses. When placed in the jewellery box, it plays a memory through sound.
Credit: David Green

Dr Jayne Wallace is making digital a little less disposable by creating beautiful objects that are destined to become family heirlooms.

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She fuses emerging technologies with contemporary jewellery to produce emotionally significant, beautiful objects designed to enhance human relationships rather than cut people off from one another.

A selection of her latest work is about to go on tour with the Craft Council's new CraftCube:Research exhibition.

Part of the exhibition includes objects created during Jayne's recent collaboration with Newcastle University's Institute for Ageing and Health, which opened up new opportunities to create jewellery that can bring tangible benefits for people dealing with dementia.

After spending considerable time working co-creatively with a couple coping with this condition -- Gillian and her husband John -- she developed a number of digital pieces that are not only useful and meaningful, but also potential family heirlooms.

Much of Jayne's work revolves around the notion that, despite digital technology being omnipresent in today's society, as individuals we have little influence on how it looks, so rather than being something personal to keep hold of, it becomes disposable. "Designing personal digital jewellery is the antithesis of a throwaway society and can be a way of uniting and connecting families, bringing them closer rather than distancing them from each other," said Jayne. "The current design of digital objects is heavily focussed on the functional rather than beautiful or personal, but this doesn't have to be the case."

Jayne's work also challenges the belief that digital technologies afford little opportunity to embed our experiences within them. "Digital jewellery offers new scope for interaction design that allows us to explore both emotional aspects of our lives and our sense of self," she said. "It challenges assumptions as to the nature of the digital technologies with a view to providing an opportunity to use technology to support people's wider emotional needs."

Jayne, who is a research associate in computing science for the Research Councils UK Digital Economy Research Hub at Newcastle University, will be the first artist to have her work on show in the new touring CraftCube:Research, showing at the DMY International Design Festival in Berlin in June.

The selected works are reflective pieces based on source material gathered from Jayne's in depth research with Gillian and John, as well as care staff at Alzheimer's Society day care centres and other people living with memory loss. Among the objects in the exhibition are dress brooches which contains spoken memories within the fabric and a silver locket containing digital images which gradually fade when exposed to the light.

The exhibition has been developed in partnership with Newcastle University and the UK Research Council's Digital Hub. The research hub focuses on interaction with computers in everyday settings, and the role technology plays in making people's lives more meaningful. It also aims to tackle social exclusion by making it easier for people to access the life-changing benefits offered by digital technologies.

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The above story is based on materials provided by University, Newcastle. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

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University, Newcastle. "Making digital personal: Bringing jewellery into the technological age." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 28 April 2010. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/04/100428121558.htm>.
University, Newcastle. (2010, April 28). Making digital personal: Bringing jewellery into the technological age. ScienceDaily. Retrieved March 27, 2015 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/04/100428121558.htm
University, Newcastle. "Making digital personal: Bringing jewellery into the technological age." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/04/100428121558.htm (accessed March 27, 2015).

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