What are Family Rituals?

Ritual has long been a point of interest for anthropologists, sociologists and historians. In the past decades, scholars have turned to ritual as a ‘window’ on the cultural and social dynamics by which people make and remake their worlds. Family is a source of numerous and variable rituals such as celebrations, traditions and religious festivals, as well as a host of other ritual and ritualised activities that animate mealtimes, bedtimes and other everyday activities. The Family Rituals 2.0 project looks at a variety of ritual and ritualised interactions that take place in familial and domestic contexts.

What is a Mobile Worker?

This project aims to explore the ways in which technology can facilitate mobile workers’ engagement in family rituals during the times in which they are spatially distant from home. But who actually are ‘mobile workers’, and what are the common features of their experiences? The terms ‘mobile work’ and ‘mobile worker’ can potentially encompass a broad range of different occupational settings, situations, and arrangements. Advances in Information and Communications Technologies (ICTs) – and particularly the advent of new powerful mobile ICTs – has led to a change in the ways in which it is possible to ‘be mobile’ in modern society. An important aspect of this is the virtual connectivity provided by ICTs, which allows individuals to ‘be present’ and communicate with one another almost anytime, anywhere. In literatures which address the topic of mobile work and workers, the terms are used most often to describe (and have perhaps become synonymous with) a particular group of workers who have a high status and are seen as embodying the modern experience of physical and technological mobility – normally professionals employed in knowledge and service sectors, whose practices have become increasingly dislocated and mobile in modern ‘hypermobile’ and ‘fluid’ society.

What is Work-Life Balance?

The concept of a work/life balance has been attracting increasing academic attention. More recently, the concept of work/life balance has been employed to interrogate and explain the ways in which individuals experience and negotiate the time they spend at work and at home. This conceptualisation of ‘work’ and ‘life’ as mutually exclusive has necessitated the concept of a ‘balance’, with the ultimate aim being a sustainable equilibrium of the two in which time spent working can earn enough money to support engagement in ‘life’, but does not impinge so greatly on time so as to be a detriment to it.


Over the course of the research project we will seek to critically understand the role of ritual in domestic and family life. Specifically we will look to understand the ways in which ritual behaviour is impacted and otherwise affected by digital technology. We will explore how rituals accommodate work-life balance and how digital technology can be used to overcome barriers to engagement in ritual activity when domestic life is constrained by working commitments. Our work incorporates Social Scientific and Design Methodologies.


Family Rituals 2.0 is a multi and inter-disciplinary team of Researchers, Designers  and Anthropologists with a variety of methodologies and approaches. Part of the aim of the project is to develop a methodology where Designers and Social Scientists both contribute and take from each other’s practices. Designers are becoming increasingly confident in using methods traditionally associated with anthropology, and have contributed by developing design-led ethnographic approaches, design probes and speculative design perspectives as ways to developing an understanding of users. A challenge of the project is to engage with social scientists for sharing and making use of methodologies and practical approaches typically associated with Design.

As technology increasingly pervades our lives we see  opportunities and concerns for the ways in which it might support or distract from our domestic lives. This research will seek to understand, in deeper detail, the nuanced roles that technology might play in fostering remote engagement in domestic rituals, of various types, amongst work-separated families while creating speculative design proposals to address the complexity of mobile workers’ lives. We will be exploring the value of daily rituals, using digital technology to connect separated family members to events at home. Our Design approach, involving design, anthropological, psychological and technological perspectives, with a critical approach, uses the present to speculate on possible scenarios, visualising transformations from what is into what could be.

A final stakeholder event will be held in 2015 for all those involved in the project.