Decomposition Cont.

From this report we found, we began to consider incorporating, visualising and communicating how different factors affect the decomposition of a body. In this wireframe are three vertical timelines. Each from bottom to top start from the death and at increments upwards, the passed time and information about what’s changed is presented at the bottom. The information changes in respect to the and type of decomposition. This comparison would provide an informative side-by-side of the contrast between the three.

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Decomposition comparison 1 • David valente

Each of the outlined bodies would also visually highlight the changed that are perceptible on the skins surface and beneath, in organs and such.

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Decomposition comparison 2 • David valente

An alternaive comparison using the same model could more directly relate to the general popular and touch on the criticisms and environmental impact of various trues of funeral.

Trying to visualise something accurately while remaining abstract due to the sensitive nature the topic, we found challenging. The Japanese Kusozu watercolour paintings in 9 stages paint a narrative of a lady dying. Using very simple techniques these depict stages of the decomposition and other related factors such as the surrounding environment and cultural influences.

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Kusozu: the death of a noble lady and the decay of her body, panel 3 of 9.
The woman’s body has been laid outside and there are early signs of bloating and discoloration. Image Credit: The Wellcome Collection

Naturally this lead me to the Wellcome Collection where I discovered an exhibition from 2008, Life Before Death. For over a month this took place to a series of 48 photographs of the terminally ill. The photographs were taken close to and as close to after the death of each individual. Half the images are literally photographed portrait of dead people, paying the respect to the value still retained in that individual. All of these people consented to these photographs and their use, and project creators Walter Schels and his partner Beate Lakotta found little resistance to finding participants. Driven to make this by their own fear of Walter dying earlier due to their age gap of 30 years.

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Life Before Death – Wellcome Collection

Death is a hard hitting subject that this tackles with respect and prior ideas with abstraction. I wanted to be able to combine the two.

Another project that collaborated with the Wellcome, The Corpse Projectaimed to help us more ethically lay the dead. 

This article touches on more of the politics around handing the dead and to quote

“In 1993, novelist Patricia Cornwell, who has a background in forensic science, came to the Body Farm with the intent of trying to have experiments carried out that would help in her latest book. The Body Farmwas, by 1996, one of the best-selling detective stories of all time. This meant massive publicity for the Body Farm, which was featured in the book. It helped raise awareness of the importance of forensic anthropology and the emerging science of taphonomy, which is concerned with what happens to a person’s body when they die.”

This bring us back to body farms. At this point we had three directions. Respect, abstraction or a tool to communicate aspects about body farms as a tool. Focusing on the decomposition visualisation we began collecting more data, and I made a mockup of how the ideas of respect and abstraction could be integrated.

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Wellcome decomposition mockup first page • David Valente

Selecting one of these would then provide the stages of decomposition.

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Wellcome decomposition mockup flow • David Valente

The final stage of the linear user flow would be revealing information about the person they had selected and the project itself.

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Wellcome decomposition mockup last page • David Valente

Designers have been known to criticise on another for calling their users — users. Touting this a lack of for the people. The aim of this is to bring that same level of living respect for the decent individual through the Wellcome exhibit while being informative through the decomposition process. The end goal being a greater level of respect for the dead and a perception of this as another stage of life rather than the end.

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