Reconfiguring a New Normal: A Socio-Ecological Perspective for Design Innovation in Sensitive Settings

Patrizia D'olivo, Marco C. Rozendaal, Elisa Giaccardi, Martha A. Grootenhuis, Jaap Huisman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)
60 Downloads (Pure)


What can design do to address adverse life events like childhood cancer? Cancer is not just a health matter—it strains family relationships and profoundly disrupts the stability of everyday routines. In this article, we introduce a socio-ecological perspective that untangles the systemic complexity of the challenges families face when confronted with childhood cancer. We use this lens to identify potential design opportunities for reconfiguring a “new normal” in their lives. We present and discuss the results of a participant observation of childhood cancer survivors at a large support group conference. These findings we analyze and organize into five themes corresponding to specific coping strategies: accepting the transformation of one’s body, avoiding avoidance, maintaining interest in social activities, retaining a sense of belonging to one’s social networks, and dealing with social stigma. These themes reveal opportunities for design innovation in sensitive settings that traverse the fields of interaction design, developmental psychology, and pediatric oncology.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)392-406
Number of pages15
JournalShe Ji: The Journal of Design, Economics, and Innovation
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2018


  • Childhood cancer
  • Family life
  • Disruptive life events
  • New normal
  • Design innovation
  • Sensitive settings


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