This Big City

Learning through a toothbrush | October 8, 2009

When I was being observed, I felt totally different brushing my teeth to normal. It felt like I was doing it differently, and it got me thinking about how I brush my teeth normally. I tend to brush my teeth looking in the mirror, and then sit on the edge of the bath when flossing, but I realised I would probably be better off sitting on the bath for the whole tooth cleaning exercise as I felt that I could feel my way around my mouth better when it wasnt being confused by visuals. Being observed was a little bit weird, but not too much, it was just brushing teeth after all. I guess it was nice to share my outlook on oral hygiene with other people!

Observing Ben, I felt a little horrible at first for asking him to clean his teeth by moving his head around a static brush, but I did manage to learn from him. It’s amazing how much moving is involved in cleaning your teeth correctly. He felt unable to clean them well within the restrictions I imposed upon him, and felt more exhausted from moving his head than from his arms. Perhaps there could be a way of creating a toothbrush that is more automated, minimising human effort completely? I have a design idea, though I think it is a little too ambitious for our MACE scenario, and I cant imagine society is ready just yet. Maybe one day, when we have relocated humanity to another planet we will be able to embrace a total departure from what we consider a toothbrush. Ben also complained that he had ‘missed a bit’ by being unable to use his arms, which made me realise, we never really know how good a job we have done of cleaning our teeth, or whether there is a huge bit of plaque somewhere out of view that we constantly miss, making us need to go to the dentist. I think the toothbrush could be doing a much better job of looking after our teeth. What about a light you shine in your mouth that highlights the areas that need your focus? or some kind of vibrating device that loosens plaque inbetween your teeth? From observing Ben, I realised there is so much more a toothbrush could be doing. Hopefully, when it comes to brainstorming within teams, I will remember that thought. There is so much more our products could be doing and so much potential for new, successful ideas.

Observing people on their day to day actions seems  a really useful way of creating new products. Listing every task the observed undergoes could provide insight into new ways of performing these tasks, and I think that is the research method I will use most when considering a new product within our team.

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About author

Joe Peach is an Artist and Designer based in London, UK. At present, he is studying Sustainable Communities and the Creative Economy at Postgraduate level in Kingston University.

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