Wednesday, May 26, 2010

pneumatic tubes in literature 2

"It was over a draughtsman's drawing that my parents met. My mother was sitting across from him on a train. He had a drawing tablet open across his bony knees and she praised his work. Avery sat up in their bed below deck, very straight, and jostled against Jean as if they were in a railway compartment. '... Thank you,' said my father, 'though I must tell you, it's not the human circulatory systm, it's a high pressure vacuum engine. Though perhaps,' he added politely, 'it seems like a heart when viewed upside down.' He turned the drawing around and looked. 'Yes, I see,' he said. 'And now so do I,' said my mother. 'It's beautiful,' she added. 'Yes,' said my father, 'a well-designed engine is a thing of exceptional beauty.' My mother reports that he examined her more closely, searched her face. 'Well, yes,' said my mother, 'but what I mean is the drawing itself, the pressures and flow of the pencil.' 'Ah,' said my father, blushing. 'Thank you.'"
From The Winter Vault by Anne Michaels

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

prague pneumatics

The prague pneumatic post (Czech: pražská potrubní pošta) was built in 1887 and remained in operation until 2002, when floods damaged many parts of the system.
Photo courtesy of Wikipedia Commons, via my husband.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

pneumatic tubes in literature 1

"My father's first job, when he was fifteen, said Avery, was at Lamson Pneumatic Tubes. Ever since I can remember, we shared an affection for pneumatic tubes: ingenious, practical, inexplicaly humorous. We loved the idea of an elegant, handwritten note, perhaps a love letter, stuffed into a cylinder and then shot through a tube of compressed air at thirty-five miles an hour or sucked up by a vacuum at the other end like liquid through a straw. My father believed this was the most unjustly neglected technology of the century, and we were continually thinking up new uses for pneumatic tube systems ... He drew maps of London criss-crossed with hundreds of miles of underground pneumatics - little trains of capsule-cars for public transportation; groceries delivered direct from shops to private residences, swooshed right into the kitchen icebox; flowers shot directly from the florist into the vase on one's piano; delivery of medicines to hospitals and convalescent homes; pneumatic school buses, pneumatic amuseument rides, pneumatically operated brass brands..."
From The Winter Vault by Anne Michaels, p18 - 19
(thanks to Annie for this quote)

Whilst medicines certainly whoosh around hospitals, flowers are yet to appear on pianos ... It makes me wonder about other possible uses for pneumatic tube systems.

Friday, May 21, 2010

medical museum field study

Posted today on Biomedicine on Display were details of a competition where you file a field report of your local medical museum to be posted onto the website My Medical Museum. It seems a wonderful way to explore the treasures of a medical museum and a great excuse to write a fun fieldstudy! I can think of lots of possibilities already ... Deadline is June 13.

I took this photo of a slide box at my favourite medical museum, Museum Boerhaave, in Leiden, Netherlands.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

researched design

Goldsmith's Department of Sociology is holding a one-day conference on social science and design. It would be wonderful to go to London for the day and think about how ethnography could engage with hospital design and vice versa ...

Making and Opening: Entangling Design and Social

24 September 2010, 9.00 - 5.30Ben Pimlott Lecture
Theatre Goldsmiths, University of London
How might design and social science speak to each other’s practices? How might social science and design remake one another’s objects?

Bringing together a group of leading practitioners and academics, this day conference will explore innovative ways of further entangling Design and Social Science disciplines through a range of open issues: Speculation/Anticipation; Participation/Impact; Discipline/Contamination; Making/Method. Speakers will include: Bill Gaver, Pelle Ehn, Mike Michael, Bill Moggridge, Harvey Molotch, Michelle Murphy, Lucy Suchman, Nina Wakeford.

Conference fee: £15 (full price); £10
(concessions).To register, please email
sociology[] Sponsored by: Centre for the Study of Invention and Social Process, Interaction Research Studio, Incubator for Critical Inquiry into Technology and Ethnography.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

up the tubes

Hospital pneumatic tube systems are an intricate network of tubes and pipes hidden in the ceilings and walls of hospital buildings, through which blood samples and pathology request forms are transported via pneumatic pressure. In an era of electronic medicine, this 19th century based engineering is not only used everyday, but is also being designed in new hospitals, as one of the most efficient and reliable ways to transport material artefacts.

The most recent issue of Monocle (where the image above comes from) reports on the growth in the market of pneumatic tube systems in hospitals. The material version of the magazine has some brief interviews with staff at Swisslog (a large pneumatic tube provider), providing a 'behind the scenes' picture of the company. If only social scientists' interviews were as aesthetically presented!