A common denominator for pain, regardless of research paradigm, is its very subjective and irrational nature. It is still very difficult to describe what pain is, or for those experiencing pain, it is very difficult for them to articulate and share how they feel. From a research perspective much has been done in fields such as the natural sciences, the medical, the philosophical, the phenomenological, the ethnomethodological and various other genre in the human and social sciences. The medical and natural science thrust is for the most governed by a neurological approach and understanding of pain. The more socially oriented research approaches explore, for the most, how people sense or experience pain, by using, for example, a phenomenological perspective, or in order to explore how people use language to negotiate an understanding of their pain they use a narratological perspective.
From an innovation and design perspective there is an opportunity to address the way in which people who are in pain, either acute or chronic, are engaged by doctors, nurses and other care personnel. At present patients are generally expected to describe their pain on a scale of 1 to 10, a process that is fraught with problems of misunderstanding and frustration for both patients and carers alike.
Altogether there is the need to establish a research initiative that opens up for an area that lies between the natural science and medical on the one hand, and the phenomenological and narratological on the other. There are a few initiatives where people are trying to break into new ground, but these are for the most individual. The strength of this initiative is that it also introduces design and innovation research to the arena. The subjective and perceptual characteristics of the experience and articulation of pain can actually inform design and innovation research. There are it seems, human characteristics in both areas that are comparable and as such useful to further an understanding of both.
By establishing this research initiative, it is hoped that its interdisciplinary and innovation orientation will attract significant funding and help broaden existing research by working across a range of, often competing, views on pain. The aim being to also provide a grounded research basis for innovating and redesigning approaches to engaging and treating pain that could hopefully alleviate those inflicted with pain and lessen the amount of medicine that is used in the process.