1. Hi, I’m Simon I work at Intel in Ireland in the Digital Health Group. My main research interests at present are in ageing and independent living. I explore the possibilities for using technologies to support new models of care in an ageing world. I am also involved in the TRIL Centre – a large, industry-academic, and multi-disciplinary research centre exploring independent living and ageing.
2. An Anti-Case Study? This is not an anti-technology talk, but rather an anti-case study, an attempt to explore what can and sometimes does go wrong when we use technology to address some of the challenges of ageing. Often we over-estimate what technology can do, we use technology to address problems associated with ageing, and not to support opportunities and we often develop technology in a rather solipsistic mode in which the world beyond the technology doesn’t exist. 3. Constructive Criticisms This should therefore not be regarded as an act of treachery against my employee and its partners but rather as an honest, and sometimes person look at where we might be going wrong. I offer these thoughts in a constructive spirit. As Robert Frost said: 'A critic is someone who pisses into a river and says look what a big stream I made'. I end with a concerted focus on taking those criticisms and turning them into constructive comments about how our approach should change.
4. Technologies for the Future? I’m often presented with images like this – they are key artefacts in the world of technology for independent living. They are network architecture drawings – describing in outline how different technologies and networks connect to create what is known as a ‘solution’. I see such diagrams as these representing rather idealised, but also somewhat unrealistic visions of the future in that they purport to “define an architecture so that people can live alone at their home with a suitable assistance condition” (Jara et al 2009) 5. Ubicomp for ageing Ubicomp is a model of and a vision for computing beyond the desktop in which information processing is embedded or integrated in everyday objectives and activities. In the ageing technology environment for example, ubicomp takes the form of sensor networks that can monitor activity, or its absence, use inferencing logic to determine whether a situation in an environment is normal or requires intervention – e.g., a fall has occurred or that there is an absence of activity in a certain space such as a kitchen.
6. Realistic Visions? Such visions are totalizing, suggesting a world without people, or contingency and “ render contemporary [socio-cultural] practice…by definition, irrelevant or at the very least already outmoded…“…thinking of infrastructure as stable, as uniform, as seamless, and as universally available is clearly problematic. It is not merely a dream of a world not yet realised it is a dream of a world that could never be realised” (Bell and Dourish)
7. Let’s Welcome Messiness In Messiness is social life, it’s service providers – public, private and third sector, its informal carers, its spouses (who do so much in an ageing society). Let’s welcome messiness into these visions of the future and use it as a highly productive force not hold it at bay with totalising ‘solutions’
The Connected Home is a Social Home Much of the rhetoric of the Smart Home is about connected individuals living lives enhanced by technologically augmented environments. Beyond the complex reality of getting advanced technologies to work together the connected home idea misses other dimensions of ageing. Homes are of heightened importance in late life – they are symbols of independence, practical demonstrations of competency and link the past, present and future . Policy is driving towards the home. But homes are not isolated units – they exist in communities and we need to be aware that home is often experienced as a ‘prison’ by older people.
Niche Products for Older People We often have a choice between designing specific technologies, products or services for older people or designing inclusively for all. It is clearly a case of ‘horses for courses’, but whilst recognising that older people may, and I stress may, have different skills and attitudes towards technology we need to recognise that products and services designed just for them may be rejected, because they are seen as condescending or stigmatising. Furthermore, we should be thinking about all society approaches – things that work across generation, and unite user groups, not that are just create with a single set of users in mind. We should be designing for us as a we age.
Build it All, Own Everything A feature of many research initiatives or technology companies’ approaches to technology innovation for ageing societies is to build an end to end solutions in which both the technologies, and the component (in the broadest sense) and the value chain are locked down. The desire, it seems, is to create the device, the thing, because it is tangible and can express the idea, but neglect the integration work that it requires Apps show the way ahead. Build the core platform and let those close to the communities and audience that need to be served create the interactions and address the issues. What is the equivalent of an SDK for social innovation?
Realistic Visions? “… thinking of infrastructure as stable, as uniform, as seamless, and as universally available is clearly problematic. It is not merely a dream of a world not yet realised it is a dream of a world that could never be realised”
“… postulating a seamless infrastructure is a strategy whereby the messy present can be ignored…infrastructure is always unevenly distributed, always messy” Bell and Dourish
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