Emotional labour in complex service systems
Audun Formo is a psychologist and PhD fellow who researches systems oriented design. He is exploring how implicit interpersonal experiences can be explicit through design. Situated as a case study in a major Norwegian child protection service, his project focuses on emotional labour in complex service systems.
Child welfare is a particular service, as it has the legal power to carry out some of the most invasive measures available to families in society. This notion also comes with great responsibility for the system to carefully manage the power of each family. Both research and experience show that families who meet with child welfare services can find this contact difficult and that emotional experiences such as being scared, confused and distraught are connected to the power imbalance of the relationship.
The current project researches how we can use design to increase actors’ awareness of the emotional tension and labour that is being done in interpersonal relationships, using child welfare as a critical case. Researching through design, the aim is to understand better what drives and impedes an actor’s ability to engage in reflexivity about their emotional responses and how these responses are embedded in a systemic context.