A surprise Project of the Week from a beautiful project Alice only heard about this morning: Project Soothe.
What does this project do?
Invites people to submit their photographs that they find most soothing and calming, and to rate pictures submitted by other volunteers. The aim is to build a database of pictures to improve mental wellbeing, and to make pictures such as these available where they might be needed such as in therapy rooms.
What do I have to do?
Register here if you want to (this is to signal an interest in participating in future projects - it is not necessary to register if you simply want to submit a photo). Then either or both of the following:
1) Submit a photo for their gallery. If you're under 16, you'll have to ask your parent or guardian first. You'll be asked for your e-mail address and a few other basic questions, and also be asked why you find this photo soothing. Alice has just submitted this photo of her late cat, Cassie, who is curled up in a bucket with calm and supreme indifference to human conventions.
2) Go through their gallery to rate the pictures according to how soothing you find them. The more opinions collected, the better.
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Alice heard about Project Soothe while attending a workshop with Autistica UK only this morning, which was looking at citizen science and autism-enabling environments, which means an environment, or place or surroundings, which are easier for autistic people to cope with. (They are also sharing experiences of sensory difficulties and coping strategies on the Twitter hashtag #ChatSenses if you want to join in.) Alice gave a short talk about what citizen science is - including its great many variations in subject, size, task, purpose, top-down versus bottom-up, equipment used, and the reasons why someone might participate - and the needs of volunteers. This was then followed by a talk from Angela McLaughlin on how Project Soothe began: they saw how well mass participation and beautiful pictures worked with Galaxy Zoo, and how 1300 people from 45 countries have participated, indicating that stress versus calm and beauty are thought about worldwide:
Unluckily, the surveys are closed at present, but when I asked what was running they said "the surveys are closed for now", suggesting that they may reopen. Even Galaxy Zoo has run out of galaxies for the public to classify once upon a time.
The research is available to read online, such as this paper. The top most soothing categories of pictures were all connected with nature: pets (such as cats and dogs); trees; flowers; water; sky; landscapes.
Project Soothe has also done some active outreach, including a school project and a trip to the Botanic Gardens in Edinburgh, in which they found that water features and the Japanese Garden were judged the most soothing places!