Academic journal article International Journal of Design

Tools for Participation: Intergenerational Technology Design for the Home

Academic journal article International Journal of Design

Tools for Participation: Intergenerational Technology Design for the Home

Article excerpt


Stakeholder Involvement

The Participatory Design (PD) community widely acknowledges that participatory techniques such as workshops, storytelling, performance techniques, games and human-centred iterative prototyping, improve understanding and communication between stakeholders in technology development (e.g. Brandt & Grunnet, 2000; Brandt, 2006; Esnault, Daele, Zeiliger, & Charlier, 2009; Muller, 2007; Sanders, 2000). However, the effective exchange of the results of these participatory techniques is often problematic due to the lack of a shared 'language' among multiple stakeholder groups (Markus & Mao, 2004; Pekkola, Kaarilahti, & Pohjola, 2006; Robertson & Simonsen, 2012). At the same time, the priorities and values of each group can make effective communication difficult. This is further exacerbated when designing technology for stakeholders whose communication skills do not facilitate direct participation in design, such as children. Additionally, participatory techniques involving the end user do not typically address the problem of transferring the results of field studies to those responsible for technological development (dePaula, 2004; Pekkola et al.; 2006; Blomberg & Karasti, 2012). The role of software engineers and other technology designers as participants in the design process is not clearly represented by traditional PD approaches, therefore, we suggest tying insights about technology use closer to the development process overseen by software engineers using these tools.

It is commonly accepted that design is a social process that involves communication and negotiation (Brandt, 2006). Yet the design of technology often involves jargon and terminology that is not always shared and well understood across different stakeholders (Muller, 2007). Differences not only exist between technical and non-technical stakeholders but also exist between different technical disciplines involved in the development process; such as between Human-Computer Interaction (HCI) field researchers and software engineers. In order to communicate effectively design participants need a shared language which is sensitive to their specific needs (Dearden & Rizvi, 2008; Miller, Pedell, Vetere, Sterling, & Howard, 2012).

We propose a toolkit with three artefacts: technology probes, associated fieldwork and conceptual goal models. We argue that the combination of these three artefacts will help to mediate effective communication between participant stakeholders and will contribute to innovative designs. We illustrate our proposed toolkit with examples of technologies used by intergenerational families.

Domestic Technology Development

Designing domestic technology (i.e., technology for the home) is particularly challenging (e.g. Howard, Kjeldskov, & Skov, 2006; Hagen & Robertson, 2009). Domestic technology is generally successful if it satisfies both functional and non-functional needs (Sandweg, Hassenzahl, & Kuhn, 2000; Hassenzahl, Platz, Burmester, & Lehner, 2000). For domestic technologies that support intergenerational interactions it is also important that every member of the family from the very young to the very old is capable of operating and enjoying it (Krömker & Sandweg, 2001). The grandparents who participated in our research were at least 70 years old and very inexperienced with technology. Their lack of confidence with technology and gaps in their knowledge about how modern technology could support relationships with their grandchildren made it difficult for them to articulate their needs. This meant that their involvement needed to be planned carefully.

Additionally, there are characteristics of the home that make designing domestic technologies unique. Domestic needs are often unspoken; relationships are not straightforwardly hierarchical; lived life is idiosyncratic and even exotic (Howard et al., 2006). The grandparent-grandchild relationship is an example of a set of complex social interactions. …

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