microbial [re]connection.

About the Project

Microbes play a tremendous role in our lives. They protect us by producing acids on our skin, they digest our food in our gut, they are responsible for our odour and much more. Nevertheless, speaking about microbes always leads us to discussions about harmful creatures and lethal diseases. This leads to vigilance and effort in fighting microbes with antibiotics and hygiene practices – causing issues with resistant microbes. Microbial [re]connection aims to reconnect microbes with humans with 3 critical design tools.

Individual Project, 2017

Exchange Semester at Lund University, School of Design

The accompanying research and thesis of the project examines the relationship between microbes and humans on 3 levels. Microbes in humans, microbes on humans, and microbes around humans. The conclusion of the research is that we fundamentally know too little about the closely interwoven connection between humans and microbes. However, basic figures show that for most classic diseases, from depression, autism and diabetes to some cancers, there is often a correlation with an imbalance of microbes. However, it is not possible to influence the microbiota of humans in such a way that diseases can be cured, yet. Scientists believe that this may be possible in the near future - opening up a world of new possibilities to influence the human being in various ways. The only thing modern science can confirm so far is that the greatest possible diversity of microbes leads to better health. Therefore, the aim of this project is to start a critical discourse, on the one hand to put the prevailing image of microbes in perspective; but also to discuss interventions into the world of microbes. The project provides 3 critical design tools from different times of the present and the future.

Present: The resistance board game illustrates a scenario of co-existence with microbes on our bodies - under extreme hygiene habits. The board game symbolises a hospital, the aim of the game is to grow resistant microbes using the player's own body microbes. The players apply microbes from different parts of the body to the board instructed by swab-cards; and semi-sterilise certain areas with the alcohol spray instructed by disinfection-cards. Over the course of the next 6 weeks, the microbes grow on the playing field - perhaps even resistant ones. The game is presented by means of a video.

In 5-10 years: Humans develop the immune system within the first 2 years of life. In this process, the greatest possible diversity of microbes is of utmost importance. Especially the oral phase plays a decisive role. The current trend to disinfect everything and prevent children from the oral phase is followed a trend of controlled exposure: Microbite is a biting toy for toddlers that allows parents to control the type and quantity of microbes the child is exposed to. A recipe book helps to increase diversity over the months.

In 50-70 years: Scientists have managed not only to determine the function and mode of action of many microbes, but also to multiply them. Humans are highly influenced by microbes entering their bodies from the surrounding environment. Therefore microbes are involved in our mood, health condition, ability to digest different foods and even our body smell. The Microbial Diffuser influences humans with specific bacteria. The bacteria are distributed in the room air with steam from flowing through the chips. Depending on the chip, we can fall asleep better, work more productively or smell better.

The project has been exhibited during the graduation show of the IKDC in June 2017.

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Jan-Micha Gamer