3D Printing Meets Humanitarian Design Research: Creative Technologies in Remote Regions

3D Printing Meets Humanitarian Design Research: Creative Technologies in Remote Regions

Jennifer Loy (Griffith University, Australia), Peter Tatham (Griffith University, Australia), Ry Healey (Griffith University, Australia) and Cassie L. Tapper (Griffith University, Australia)
Copyright: © 2016 |Pages: 22
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-0016-2.ch003


This chapter provides an introduction to the discourse informing humanitarian design research practice and a context for evaluating problem solving strategies in this area of research. Advances in the development of creative technologies, and in particular 3D printing, are stimulating innovations in approach and practice. This chapter is based on a design research project that uses advances in digital technologies to address the logistical challenges facing Oxfam's Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) projects in East Africa, whilst simultaneously responding to current design theory in humanitarian design research. It takes into account people, process and technology in developing a response to the opportunities provided by creative technologies that offers a new approach to achieving an appropriate balance between paternalistic and participatory design research in this discipline. The field study informing the research took place in Nairobi in 2014/2015 and was principally supported by the Humanitarian Innovation Fund.
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This chapter introduces the discourse on approaches used by designers working in humanitarian research and the background to the current opportunities provided by recent advances in digital technologies. It then outlines an example of practice that suggests new research directions and an alternative approach to practice for humanitarian design research enabled by creative technologies. Industrial designers have long been involved in design research to support the work of international aid agencies but, to date, the area of humanitarian logistics has been largely outside the scope of the discipline. However, recent innovations in digital technologies have inspired design researchers to look at new opportunities and to collaborate with colleagues from the humanitarian logistics field to address the inherent challenges within current supply chain systems. This chapter describes a pilot project funded by the Humanitarian Innovation Fund1 and aims to illustrate how humanitarian design research in the field of logistics is being impacted by advances in creative technologies and new thinking, whilst highlighting the tensions. The project was hosted by Oxfam G.B. and brought together researchers in humanitarian logistics and industrial design to investigate how 3D printing could circumvent issues in the current supply chain for Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) projects in East Africa (Oxfam, 2015).

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