Embracing ambiguity in the design of non-stigmatizing digital technology for social interaction among senior citizens

Document type: Journal Articles
Article type: Original article
Peer reviewed: Yes
Full text:
Author(s): Tomas Sokoler, Marcus Sanchez Svensson
Title: Embracing ambiguity in the design of non-stigmatizing digital technology for social interaction among senior citizens
Journal: Behaviour & Information Technology
Year: 2007
Volume: 26
Issue: 4
Pagination: 297-307
ISSN: 0144-929X
Publisher: Taylor & Francis
ISI number: 000247953600004
Organization: Blekinge Institute of Technology
Department: School of Engineering - Dept. of Interaction and System Design (Sektionen för teknik – adv. för interaktion och systemdesign)
School of Engineering S- 372 25 Ronneby
+46 455 38 50 00
Authors e-mail: msn@bth.se
Language: English
Abstract: In this paper we report our early experience with the design of technology for senior citizens. We take as our point of departure a pre-study of the ways in which older adult living occurs at three different senior housing facilities in southern Sweden. We contribute to the current debate concerning the ways in which digital technology can be designed to enable new types of living arrangements for the ever growing population of older people.
We focus on technology designed to support the social rather than physical challenges of growing older. In particular we discuss how designing for social interaction can circumvent the stigma associated with being lonely in light of diminishing social networks, changed patterns of interactions with family, moving to a new neighbourhood, and the loss of a spouse. We will suggest that designers, in the design of digital technology for social interaction, deliberately leave room for ambiguity to make it possible for people to leave their intentions of use unarticulated. Furthermore, recognizing that many everyday activities already act as enablers for social interaction, we suggest utilizing such activities as an approach for design. We will support our suggestions by introducing three perspectives:
a perspective emphasizing that the population of older adults is one of resourceful individuals; a perspective on social interaction emphasizing its circumstantial nature as an inherent part of everyday activities; and a perspective on the role of digital technology emphasizing its role as merely one of many resources present for human action. Finally, we will present an example concept showing how an enhanced TV remote control may be designed to enable social interactions without inflicting too much on the original experience of watching TV and most importantly, without stigmatizing the people using the remote control as lonely individuals craving the company of others.
Summary in Swedish: Seniorer, äldre, social interaktion, tvetydighet, stigmatisering, interaktion, teknik, IPTV, TV
Subject: Human Work Science\Work Practice
Nursing & Caring Sciences\General
Computer Science\Computersystems
Keywords: Senior citizens, social interaction, ambiguity, stigmatization, interaction