A field-test on documentation for absolute beginners

Looking into the OpenDot fablab through the kitchen

Walking into a makerspace for the first time can be fascinating, strange, or even awkward. And, in a certain sense, the Opendot fablab in Milan is an experience itself: floor-to-ceiling shelves filled with transparent boxes, intimidating machines animated by electrical power and a restaurant kitchen with all the spices you can imagine.

When a therapist and a mother from the foundation Together To Go (TOG) entered the space in a cold Monday of mid-February, the coordinator of the lab was a bit late but someone greeted them with a small cup of coffee just poured from a Moka pot.

One of the goals of Careables is to create a documentation platform for open source projects in the field of health & care – not only for the makers, but also for healthcare professionals and patients – based on Wevolver.

But how can we create a platform for users we don’t know? So first thing first, we planned a field-test on documentation and absolute beginners were needed. Therefore, TOG had chosen a recently hired young female physiotherapist and an energetic woman with a daughter suffering from cerebral palsy. The goals consisted in observing how they search for solutions they need and taking notes of the obstacles encountered while approaching the “documentation for makers” of Wevolver repository.

Being subjects of “scientific experimentation” might cause anxiety and shynesses but little by little the two women felt comfortable and freely interacted, expressed doubts, asked about esoteric terms (“What is BOM?”) and laughed while scrolling. What we have discovered is a list of things to take into consideration in the next platform development phase.

First of all, language may represent a barrier from 2 points of view: some people are still struggling to speak and read English and communication requires mediation between varieties of languages (“registers” in linguistics), that of healthcare sector and of maker world. Secondly, making appears a matter of “engineers”, dealing with acronyms, files and circuits but there is no reason to be like this: documentation can be comprehensible to anyone and DIY solutions could be interesting and accessible alternatives.

Then, our next challenge is to work on this, and hopefully, manage to design an inclusive, user-friendly platform collecting all the “careables”.

Text: Marta Savoldelli, Picture: OpenDot fablab in Milan, viewed through the kitchen


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