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Nicola Naismith Blog 2: Care and Caring

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During the Covid-19 Pandemic a wide range of books were published which focused on care. The Care Manifesto (Care Collective) explores the politics of care – and crucially, the need for an interdependence of care – and asserts how currently carelessness reigns. Labours of Love – The Crisis of Care (Madeline Bunting) includes explorations of care in relation to interpersonal dynamics, economics and bureaucratic structures, and defines its origins: care as a practical activity to support someone’s welfare, and care as a matter of intention – thinking about someone with empathy or concern. She further distinguishes between caring for someone and caring about them, which are not the same thing.

In The Care Crisis Emma Dowling writes that we have a situation where not everyone is affected in the same way, with access to care being more and more dependent on what you can pay. Further, those who provide care to others are unable to do so satisfactorily and under dignified conditions.

In the final book I’ll highlight in this blog, Eleanor Jupp (Care, Crisis and Activism – The politics of everyday life) describes care as an everyday and ongoing set of practices. Se goes on to highlight a series of care relationships: caring for children, neighbours, older people and those with disabilities, young carers’ supporting parents, forms of community care, and notions of self care and nurturing. She goes on to describe how these forms of care involve:

  • Vulnerabilities
  • Needs
  • Dependencies

There are layers of complexity within a caring relationship: companionship, exchange, love, responsibility, worry and concern, among other emotions and feelings. There is often a desire to do more or less in regards the current situation, but feeling and knowing that choices are often limited. There are feelings of – as the cared-for person – being a burden and – for the carer – feeling burdened alongside the accompanying guilt. The transition to accepting care – from self-reliance to reliance – happens inconsistently and individually. For everyone concerned it is a continual process of adjustment best supported by a caring approach.

Time and money are obvious factors that influence what kind of care is provided and by whom. For those who can’t afford to pay for care for loved ones, there is the emotional load (or the emotional labour) that comes from time spent caring, or when that isn’t happening thinking about the care which has been provided (was it enough?) or needs to be provided in the future (how can that be managed?). I’m wondering how the often unseen, unwitnessed acts which occur daily across a wide sphere of care, such as Judd describes, might be supported by an IOT underpinned by the personalised and bespoke aspects of craft. Is there a place for IOT to support the interdependence of care, as proposed by the Care Collective?

I’m writing this at the end of Creative and Wellbeing Week, a UK-wide celebration of the myriad ways in which creativity can support wellbeing: participatory arts and crafts are used in a range of contexts, and the evidence base of its benefit continues to build upon the comprehensive Creative Health report from 2017. Over the last 4 years I have been conducting my own research – Practising Well – which explores how creative practitioners who facilitate, deliver and co-produce participatory projects supporting wellbeing or social change crucially need to be supported themselves – in short who cares for the carer? Pulling back from artists support and wellbeing to that of carer’s, of the 2 million carers in the UK, 1.4 million people are providing over 50 hours of care per week, with carers at risk of mental ill health and social isolation.

So where are the opportunities to link the functions of IOT devices in order to contribute to an interdependence of care? How can craft and making processes – and what I consider to be the care intrinsic to them – lead to opportunities for respite and connection which are regular and creative? How can simple hand-making processes, which may be repetitively soothing and therefore provide opportunities for rest, be linked to IOT, which feels in some ways – due to the seemingly random and irritating nature of notifications they generate –  at the opposite end of the spectrum? The Arduino workshop will no doubt bring new ideas to the fore.