About InSight 2

At the Nexus of Design, Health Humanities and Community

Bonnie Sadler Takach, Pamela Brett-MacLean & Aidan Rowe, curators

In 2012, straddling interdisciplinary worlds encompassing art and design, health and medicine, with a common interest in illuminating and exploring the scope and possibilities of the medical/health humanities within our local academic setting, we invited design students and our wider university community to help us visualize extant and emerging interdisciplinary connections characterizing the health humanities. The outcome was InSight: Visualizing Health Humanities, which featured 32 exhibits from over 20 of our faculties and educational and research units, displayed or performed in or near the Fine Arts Building Gallery at the University of Alberta from May 15 to June 9, 2012. With the gallery located adjacent to the two major educational sites for health professional students, this exhibition illuminated a rich diversity of voices, conversations, media and forms, which were also profiled via a dedicated website (insight.healthhumanities.ca), book publication, and media coverage—all of which suggested new opportunities for discussion, along with the potentials of dialogical meaning-making regarding the possibilities of this emerging field.

Over four weeks, 840 people viewed the exhibition and shared positive feedback. Media coverage promoted awareness and active discussion regarding the health humanities. In his foreword to the InSight publication, Alan Bleakley recognized the value of "first exposing local contributions to the emerging dialogue," but encouraged us to expand our efforts "to include international input and output of the highest quality, showcasing a vital cultural force—the subtle and unstoppable impulse to democratize medicine for the public good."

Fast-forward to 12 months later. Building on the success of our first exhibition project, we have expanded our exploration to include a broader range of perspectives. In May 2013, InSight2: Engaging the Health Humanities opened as an international exhibition featuring work from 36 exhibitors as well as the publication, a two-day symposium, and a collaborative course project to bring together learners in design and the health sciences. All of this offers frameworks for examining linkages, experiences, visualizations and productive imaginings at the nexus of design, health humanities, and the community. Through this interconnected set of projects, we offer an opportunity to open up an expansive, exploratory conversation regarding how we can intentionally engage design and the health humanities, and work collaboratively across disciplines and communities, to create innovative and transformative processes, products, services and experiences that can help to promote health and wellbeing across specific local and also global contexts.

In embarking on this phase of what we imagine will be an ongoing, interdisciplinary collaboration, we appreciate the value of taking a generative, active and interactive design approach to exploring interconnections between design, the health humanities, and the community. In particular, we value both design and health humanities as continuously evolving area of practice and inquiry, particularly when we begin to respond to social accountability mandates characterizing our fields.

With InSight 2, we offer a few of our reflections on our journey. We invite you to offer your reflections as you experience the text and images profiled in the publication and in our InSight 2 exhibition. We also invite you to share your ideas with us and the growing community of scholars, practitioners, community organizations and activists at the “Design, the Health Humanities, and the Community” symposium (May 24 to 25, 2013), and in response to the “Designing for Health” collaborative course project that we are piloting in connection with the “Radical Imagings and Imaginings: Social Design and the Health Humanities” course offered through the Department of Art and Design. You can write to us at info@healthhumanities.ca.

"InSight 2 focuses on what roles design brings to different processes, not just the production of things, but as a means of working and thinking together. Design looks at the idea of what the whole project does, allowing for the communication of design beyond just capitalist activity. It’s much broader than that, flowing into community engagement and social responsibility. This project is an interesting exemplar of this, moving outside of the classroom to enrich learning environments that achieve visible results. It’s a nice balance of chaos and structure." –AR
"It was interesting to follow a question without needing to figure everything out beforehand, but rather just opening oneself up to the inquiry, through dialogue and a community-based process, taking time to become slowly aware of various aspects or dimensions of the question. I appreciated the intuitive, design-based process we followed, with its emerging sense of fit and rightness that helped keep us on a productive track, where new openings for inquiry and collaboration would emerge. Already, I believe, new collaborations have developed through this process, both close to home and internationally as well." –PBM
"InSight 2 helps us explore how we can learn to work in teams across disciplines, areas and communities on critical issues connected to health and well-being. Students respond well to these collaborative, community-based and meaningful projects. These experiences prepare students to develop questions and work towards solutions with others; to share resources and learning among professions; to pool their collective wisdom and fresh ideas; to frame chaos; and to imagine the future together." –BST


Pamela Brett-MacLean is Assistant Professor and Director of the Arts & Humanities in Health & Medicine Program in the Faculty of Medicine & Dentistry (FoMD) at the University of Alberta. She is committed to enhancing teaching and learning by infusing arts and humanities perspectives in curricular and co-curricular activities within health professions education. She is also committed to collaborative explorations into the scope and possibilities of an expanded medical/ health humanities field, both within the University of Alberta and beyond. A recipient and co-recipient of University of Alberta Teaching and Learning Enhancement Fund grants in support of innovative approaches to medical education, she was also recently awarded a 2013 Canadian Association for Medical Education “Certificate of Merit” for her contributions to medical education.

Aidan Rowe is Assistant Professor of Design Studies (Interactive New Media) at the University of Alberta. He holds degrees from the University of Alberta, University of Westminster and Goldsmiths College, University of London. He teaches design fundamentals, interactive media, design theory and information design. His research, curatorial and practice interests are in design and education. Recent practice-based work explores human-computer interaction, net.art and information aesthetics. Written and pedagogic work revolves around understanding and improving design education in practical and theoretical forms. He has lectured and taught design in Canada, Japan, Korea, Germany, Hong Kong, France and the UK.

Bonnie Sadler Takach is Associate Professor of Design Studies and Coordinator of Visual Communication Design in the Department of Art & Design at the University of Alberta. Her work involves the visual translation of knowledge, and the collaborative design and evaluation of health messages. She was coinvestigator of a CIHR Knowledge Translation Grant to study strategies for critically appraising children’s health-information websites. She integrates research into teaching, involving participatory methods with community partners. She is a co-recipient of a Teaching and Learning Enhancement Fund grant to explore alternative approaches in design education. She has researched and presented her work locally and internationally.