Transferring the benefits of commensality to enhance the experience of solo diners
Sep 2020 - ongoing
Recent developments in society show an increase in people living and eating alone. While eating together (commensality) has many benefits, solo dining carries some stigma, and it is often perceived as negative. This project aims to enhance the solo dining experience through design.
Eating alone has become an accustomed feature of modern life: as a person’s daily routine becomes increasingly active, hectic and rushed, eating solo has turned into a more practical or convenient activity and, from a more fundamental level, it has (at times) given the commensals a necessary break for isolation, peace and quietness. Nevertheless, it might lack some of the allure of commensality (eating in company).
Within the literature, there is an acceptance that commensality leads to better psychosocial outcomes for individuals and groups. Adversely, eating alone can lead to modifying or evasive behaviour such as using information and communication technology (ICT) devices for distraction and developing unhealthy habits such as consuming food rapidly.
This project investigates the fundamentals of commensality and translates those into a design proposal that enhances the solo diner experience. Therefore, this master thesis project aims to transfer the appeal of ‘commensality’ to solo diners through design.
In a diary study, six participants described their solo dining experience. The analysis of the field study results provided insight into the perception and the needs of solo diners regarding the eating alone experience. Solo eaters identified important features to positively impact their dining experience: feeling relaxed, having time for themselves and self-nurturing. Those elements provided input for the design phase, which is currently being executed by developing different design concepts.
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Project coaches: Mailin Lemke and Roelof de Vries (UT)