Kelly Dobson: Body-Based Wellness Machines and the Essential Self

November 18, 2014


MIT Media Lab, E14-240


Kelly Dobson is an artist and engineer who pioneered the Parapraxis of Machine Design, a novel area of research examining how people relate to and through machines beyond their intended purposes. Her highly interdisciplinary work spans art, technology, medicine, and culture.
Dr. Kelly Dobson earned two master's degrees and a PhD from MIT. She worked within the Computing Culture, Affective Computing, Sociable Media, and Physics and Media research groups at the MIT Media Lab, and the Interrogative Design Group in the Center for Advanced Visual Studies. She re-launched and leads the Rhode Island School of Design's department of art and technology and its Digital + Media MFA program. Dobson is on leave fall and winter AY 2014-15, and is currently visiting faculty at The Media Lab. At RISD, she established research clusters and launched and leads the Data Visceralization research group. She is also a faculty associate at Harvard's Berkman Center for Internet & Society. Dobson has won many awards and distinctions, including the VIDA Art and Artificial Life Award Honor and the Rockefeller New Media Fellowship. Her work has been featured at Eyebeam, The Kitchen, and Exit Art in New York, Witte de With in Rotterdam, and the Millennium Museum in Beijing, among other venues. Her work has been presented in Design Meets Disability, See Yourself Sensing, Adversarial Design, FAB, Makers, and The Art of Critical Making and featured in Wired, Make, Grey Room, Res, and Gourmet.
Dobson's research centers on the design of intuitive interfaces, the innovation of new materials, machines for well-being, and data visceralization, a means of making intangible events sensory. She is working collaboratively with doctors and families to invent new, intuitive medical technologies for variety of applications. For example, she invented a new incubator mattress, The Outer Womb, which allows mothers and their pre-term infants in hospital NICUs to be in closer contact. She also recently created Mood Organs, a set of wearable organ-like accessories that connect people through their subconscious nervous systems. If one person cries, someone close to them will feel it, an alternative to the superficial social media connections that purport to connect us to one another.
By playing with our senses and expectations, Dobson asks us to rethink our relationships to each other and our objects. She pays deep and careful attention to the ways that we, and the things we make, help us care for one another and is profoundly driving medical and wellness transformations in the fields of Medical Device Design, Critical Care Medicine, and Mindfulness.

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