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Introducing: Gavin Inglis

Language and Cognition fellow Gavin Inglis

 

We recently spent some time catching up with Department of Clinical Neuroscience (DCN) Language and Cognition fellow, Gavin Inglis. The DCN fellowship project aims to promote and showcase the working activity and research interests currently in DCN through a programme of three arts/science fellowships curated by Mark Daniels. The Language and Cognition fellowship’s aim is to work with people with neurological conditions to explore areas of growing understanding and connectivity between the patient experience and scientific research practice. The resulting work will reveal some of the complex narratives found in the DCN and its partner organisations.

Gavin has a technical background and has a history of studying artificial intelligence and its possibilities in creating interactive fiction. A keen fiction writer, Gavin eventually came to realise he’s more of an author than a technologist and started thinking about creating interactive fiction that has a chance to make a difference. One such project is an online interactive fiction called Hana Feels. Hana Feels allows readers to navigate through interactions between Hana, a young woman who self-harms, and various people around her. The main purpose is to help readers consider how they might have a conversation with someone they suspect is feeling vulnerable. In creating the story pathways for Hana Feels Gavin says, ‘I thought about how awkward people feel when they have conversations outside their comfort zone. And talking to a friend or family member about their self-harm certainly falls outside the comfort zone for most people.’

‘I want to make something useful.’

Gavin brings this same care, consideration and empathy to the Language and Cognition Fellowship. After spending time in the Lothian Health Services Archive, Gavin has been studying old building plans, records and stories to help him understand the history of the Department of Clinical Neurosciences and one its pioneer founders, Professor Norman Dott.

Thinking about bringing cognition into his work with language, he is currently considering some interesting areas for development like:

 

  • Drawing from stories of patients with Functional and Dissociative Neurological Disorders (FND). After connecting with Consultant Neurologist Dr Jon Stone, Gavin has become fascinated with FND, a neurological movement disorder that means the brain doesn’t send and receive messages accurately and which is not fully understood. Symptoms of FND can present as a range of motor or sensory symptoms in the body such as weakness, movement disorders or blackouts but it’s difficult to diagnose and some patients have experienced accusations of malingering before a diagnosis has been made.
  • Creating from the writings and stories of Professor Norman Dott, whose 40 years of neurological case study notes (around 26,650 notes) have been recently archived and catalogued. Gavin has been especially taken with stories of Professor Dott himself, by all accounts a unique man who, in the early days of his career, recklessly sped around Edinburgh in his car to attend to accidents…caused by cars.
  • Explore ideas around spatial relationships, how the hospital building plans might reveal spatial relationships and help him to imagine telling stories about how a place may have felt in the past.

‘The incredible amount of thought going into the hospital is exciting.’

After spending so much time in archives and by starting to forge relationships with medical practitioners like Dr Jon Stone, Gavin feels more confident now in speaking to staff and specialists. The next phase of Gavin’s work will see him spending more time with people (staff, patients, families) and settling into a new studio and collaboration lab in Edinburgh’s City Art Centre. Inspired by his fellowship research, Gavin has been creating additional pieces of work like an upcoming Unbound event at the Edinburgh International Book Festival and mapping ideas for further exploration like a game that can help neurology patients in recovery.

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