International Conversations in Ageing and Technology Seminar Series Event 1: Participatory Design as we Age

International Conversations in Ageing and Technology Seminar Series

Participatory Design as we Age

On April 22nd, 2021 we held the first in our series of ‘International Conversations in Ageing and Technology”. The event was organised by a team of network members interested in co-design and ageing – Helen Manchester, Juliane Jarke and Susan van Hees.

The event was designed in the spirit of co-design and taking into account different approaches to knowledge production. It was designed in the spirit of interdisciplinarity and of working out what we can learn from each other (even if we don’t always understand each other at first). It was also designed in a spirit of experimentation and trying out new ways of doing things.

The event kicked off with 6 very varied five minute provocations from six amazing scholars working across anthropology, HCI/Information systems, gerontology and age studies, sociology and scholars working at intersections of these fields and with ideas from science and technology studies (STS). These scholars and their provocations are shared below. They included scholars who have been previously engaged with our network and those we have read with great interest and hope might be interested in getting involved.

  • Ann Light, University of Sussex; “We went in as old people…”: Bringing Life Experience to codesigning Futures.
  • Ann talked us through some of her projects working alongside older adults. Her slides are below.
  • John Vines, University of Edinburgh; “If participatory design is so good, why are we still surrounded by horrible technologies?”
  • Linda Tonolli, University of Trento; “Active aging as ageism: participatory design to age in my own terms”
  • Linda’s contribution was in the form of a video which can be viewed here:
  • Sanna Kuoppamäki, KTH Stockholm “Designing with care: Developing participatory approach in robot-assisted care”
  • Susan van Hees, Utrecht University; “The value of values in co-creating implementation pathways for digital innovations in health and ageing”
  • Andreas Bischof, Chemnitz University of Technology, “The Challenge of “Configuring” Participation and Participants.”

As the main form of participation during the event we designed a concept board where we asked for all those attending to make contributions. Between each provocation we gave participants 5 mins to add questions, themes, ideas to the concept board related to each of the provocations. As people added to the board, we played music – which seemed to be one of the most popular features of the event. Everyone loved the brilliant Arlo Parks’ new album.

Loving the format of provocations alternating with contributing to concept board – especially use of music in Zoom event! Hoping @Helenmanchester will share playlist! #experiencedesign

Following the provocations groups were formed to discuss the emerging themes that came out of the varied provocations, using the ideas and themes on the concept board as a resource. Each group was asked to discuss and make notes on their concept board related to their ideas. Feedback for the format of the event was largely positive:

Great discussion today @socgerontech about designing technology with & for older people. Good summing up title from @almostjohnvines: if participatory design is so good, why do we live in a world of horrible technologies?

Although some participants found the concept board difficult to access and use.

Themes to emerge during the event were varied but included discussion around:

  • How discourses such as ‘active ageing’ frame older people and their ‘needs’
  • The need to consider the intersectionality of being older – older people are not all the same!
  • If you’re doing technology design for older people you should be asking who is in the room and who is not in the room
  • Important to ask what older people gain from being involved in participatory design
  • We have learnt a lot in the use of technology during Covid 19
  • Participatory design is about varied approaches, values and about adopting a participatory ethos not about specific methods
  • Who is setting the agenda for designing for older adults? Where is the political agenda?

You can see the final concept board, that provides a great documentation of the event, as well as the slides of all presentations here:

Participatory Design as we Age – Concept board results

Participatory Design as we age – Presentations

Next steps are partly planned – Great ending!

@stephen_skatz suggest to write a Co-Participatory Manifesto, ‘how to do it ethically‘, concerning designing technology for older adults. #PDasweage #socgerontech

Don’t forget we have some other ‘International Conversations in Ageing and technology’ planned – including topics such as ‘Care and Dementia’ and ‘Critical Robotics.’ If you’d like to stay in touch with how we progress with the work and know first about the other events in the series then do consider becoming a member of the socio-gerontechnology network.