A Handful of Help for Homecoming Soldiers
The circadian rhythm controls our understanding of time. This master clock is the information center for many cyclical systems in the body, such as sleep cycles, the metabolism, cell production, and more. It can be disrupted by shifts in lifestyles, travel (think of jet lag), or physical damage to the brain. The hypothalamus, where the circadian rhythm lives, is also the part of the brain most susceptible to injury for many soldiers. Many times, these physical wounds are invisible but when coupled with the shift from military lifestyle to civilian life, they can trigger psychological symptoms that perpetuate PTSD. Talistones are not a substitute for medical attention but their purpose is to re-calibrate the circadian rhythm to reduce triggers and symptoms that can instigate PTSD.
RISD Master's Thesis 2017 - awarded Graduate Studies Grant
Talistones are amulets to honor soldiers for their service and help them deal with the immediate and long-term symptoms of PTSD. As small private medallions, they live outside the negative stigma many veterans face for seeking help while also providing haptic and visual feedback to help recalibrate the circadian rhythm.
Pocket watches are a quintessential point of inspiration for this project because they are complex mechanisms calibrated to subdivide time. Injury to the circadian rhythm means it is difficult for people to determine the passage of time and to feel grounded to the present. To heal the circadian rhythm, creating artificial markers of the passage of time, especially those with a gentle haptic reminder, can aid the master clock to reset itself.
To explore the function and esthetic, I wanted to maintain the integrity by collecting feedback from combat soldiers and veterans. I tested a variety of prototypes and used the feedback to develop my final proposal. The spectrum of prototypes spanned from digital to static models and immediate feedback to long term data collection based on inspiration from multiple cultures, technologies, and military object traditions.
The final proposal includes 3 categories of models.
The first, a non-digital mechanism that uses cyclical movements inspired by the idea of meditation beads to help the veteran be mindful of the present.
The second, a haptic stone that reverberates heartbeat vibration patterns to the carrier when their own heart beat level spikes. Knowledge of heartbeats and matching a calmer pattern is a natural human habit and has been used in a variety of different outputs to decrease anxiety in humans and animals.
The final model is a long-term data collection piece that captures the veteran’s fidgeting and exports the data as an abstract output to decrease the stigma and express the reality of the veteran’s internal process.
Talistones was on exhibit at the Rhode Island Convention Center for the Rhode Island School of Design Graduate Student Thesis Exhibition from May 21- June 5, 2017
To learn more about the science, meet the veterans involved in the project, and understand the origin of the ideas, check out my thesis book!