I began my exploration in the field (Hööks, 2018), discovering other works in the process. Hööks’ soma mat and breathing light caught my attention for prompting presence in the moment by incorporating objects from the immediate environment that adapt to the rhythms of the user through a mirror-like environment. Khut (2016) shared a similar approach but it felt less experiential to me because it only used sight sense.
Schiphrst’s (2009) work uniquely delved into defining experiences through an artistic and philosophical lens, incorporating three case studies influenced by somatics and dance. I found it beautiful how she managed to implement immersive bodily experiences with multiple people wearing devices with computing. Similarly, Bang and Fdili (2023) offered an explorative and collaborative artistic spatiotemporal experience, creating music through the body movements of both individuals and groups.
I had mixed feelings about Hajinejad et al. (2016). While I appreciated their solution to incorporate somatic principles into active contexts, I felt the choice of sounds was not well-considered as it created a disconnection from the real world, despite the positive intention of adding playfulness to mundane activities.
Svanaes and Solheim’s (2016) exploration of altering the human soma through extensions, combined with Tsaknaki’s (2021) emphasis on integrating wearable devices, provide diverse perspectives on combining lifelike objects with the human body which I would refer back to for our prototype.
I will primarily draw upon Baker’s (2016) concept of the experienced body and Strozzi-Heckler’s (2014) idea of somatic opening to attain somatic awareness and presence in the moment. I aim to integrate these concepts with Feldenkrais’ (1977) approach, which combines focus on the movement.
I recognize that the cycling experience involves factors such as comfort, efficiency, utility, and the overall environment. However, my focus is on body movement and enhancing sensory awareness during these actions, particularly important for the challenges of cycling where attention can be limited at times.
Trying Somatic Exercises
Since I lack practical experience with somatic practices, I consulted a somatic expert to identify and engage in a few relevant practices.
I acknowledge that I am less “tuned in my body” and can be less sensitive to what is happening in it.
The body scan felt too passive and required a lot of concentration to sense what was happening inside me, but it did work.
On the other hand, the Feldenkrais exercise demanded that I adapt to a complex sequence of movements that I was not familiar with. The results were more substantial compared to the body scan, as I could continue to focus on my shoulders long after completing the exercise.
Body Mapping Exercise
I am interested in adopting Ståhl et al. (2017) and Tsaknaki’s (2021) method of capturing and documenting body information by tuning into the body, creatively expressing felt sensations, and using them to create objects.
The research method designed (PDF 50KB) combined a body scan with Feldenkrais exercise for legs that is documented in body maps with follow-up questions based on the drawings, generated with ChatGPT and edited by myself.
Collect qualitative tacit body information from the user.
Drawing, following or collecting tacit/ experiential qualitative knowledge through a more free-flow medium.
The participants agreed that expressing the body sensations through drawing felt limiting. The next step is to attempt a mood board exercise for this purpose.
I need more first-hand experience with somatic exercises to understand which exercises are useful for what so that I open up my research options.
I managed to create a focus on the sensations in the legs for self-reporting the data through drawing.
In retrospect, the exercises seemed more like isolated laboratory tasks aimed at understanding basic actions or elements. I should have examined them within the context of specific activities to gather more enriching qualitative data that could genuinely inform our overall experience.
Baker, W.B., 2021. The wakeful body: somatic mindfulness as a path to freedom. Shambhala Publications.
Bang, T.G. and Fdili Alaoui, S., 2023, April. Suspended Circles: Soma Designing a Musical Instrument. In Proceedings of the 2023 CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (pp. 1-15).
Feldenkrais, M., 1972. Awareness through movement (Vol. 1977). New York: Harper and Row.
Hajinejad, N. et al. (2016) ‘Gangklang’, Proceedings of the Audio Mostly 2016 [Preprint]. doi:10.1145/2986416.2986447.
Hööks, K., 2018. Designing with the body: Somaesthetic interaction design. MIT Press.
Schiphorst, T. (2009) The Varieties of user experience. Bringing embodied methodologies from somatics and performance to human-computer interaction. PhD thesis. University of Plymouth.
Strozzi-Heckler, R., 2014. The art of somatic coaching: Embodying skillful action, wisdom, and compassion. North Atlantic Books.
Ståhl, A., Balaam, M., Ciolfi Felice, M. and Kaklopoulou, I., 2022, June. An Annotated Soma Design Process of the Pelvic Chair. In Designing Interactive Systems Conference (pp. 1921-1933).Tsaknaki, V., 2021, June. The Breathing Wings: An Autobiographical Soma Design Exploration of Touch Qualities through Shape-Change Materials. In Designing Interactive Systems Conference 2021 (pp. 1266-1279).
Svanaes, D. and Solheim, M., 2016, May. Wag your tail and flap your ears: The kinesthetic user experience of extending your body. In Proceedings of the 2016 CHI Conference Extended Abstracts on Human Factors in Computing Systems (pp. 3778-3779).