Abstract Pollie Barden 14th November 2013

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Pollie will be presenting a status update on her GoodGym[1] study. She is currently in the Prototype Phase of her participatory design research project. In collaboration with GoodGym coaches (older people) and their runners (young adults), she has developed a mobile/tablet app to assist the pairs in communicating, scheduling visits and tracking the runners. The pairs have been using the system since September 2013 and will continue to use it through January 2013. She will be sharing preliminary indicators from the study. She is also looking for feedback and recommendations that may need to be considered for implementation in the remaining months of the study.

Some background information

Here we are using participatory design to develop a gameful system to facilitate the social interactions between older people and young adults who are members of a community run club. Selwyn (2003) proposes that successful digital literacy support of older people will be through trusted sources that are deeply involved in the local community. Our project tests Selwyn's theory (2003) through a real world implementation by engaging a local running club in East London, UK. We are tackling the arching issue of digital technology usage and participatory design for supporting older people in gaining confidence in integrating digital technologies in their everyday life.

A 2009 United Nations report states that by 2050 there will be more people over 60 then under 15 years of age in developed countries. Despite the increase of older people in the population, they are still overlooked in the development of digital technologies. On average, older people have ambivalent attitudes toward new technologies due to limited experience of the technology's usefulness in their everyday life.

The central theme of our research project is to empower older people by fostering the confidence to engage with digital technologies through a meaningful integration into their lives. We are working with a local London, UK running club whose members regularly visit isolated older people in their neighbourhoods: checking on their well-being, encouraging social interaction, delivering newspapers and doing odd jobs.

The relationship between the running group's member and the older people (coaches) provides a platform for building a supportive digital experience within the community. The challenge is that the coaches in general do not use digital technology (internet, smartphones,). This limitation provides an opportunity for developing a gameful system that both supports the runner/coach relationship and assists integrating digital technology in an older person's lifestyle in a meaningful way. The questions we ask are:

  1. Is digital technology adoption by older people improved by introducing it in the context of an everyday life activity through an intergenerational relationship, that is not family?
  2. Does a system that reveals more functionality slowly over time support sustained usage of digital technology by older people?
  3. What are the criteria for developing a technology older people will use?
  4. Can gameplay be integrated in a non-game context to foster exploration and usage of digital technologies by older people?

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