Representations of the Old and Ageing in the Design of the New and Emerging: Assessing the design of Ambient Intelligence technologies for older people

Louis Neven

Research output: ThesisPhD Thesis - Research UT, graduation UT

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This thesis analyses the way older people are conceived of, imagined, or, in the terms of this thesis, represented, as potential users of a new type of information technology (IT/ICT): ambient intelligence (AmI). These user representations matter as gerontechnological innovations are, in our ageing society, increasingly seen as a way of dealing with the social problems the growing number of “elderly” are said to pose. Based on theoretical insights from Social Gerontology, Science and Technology Studies (STS) and Gerontechnology, this thesis asks the question: What user representations of older users are created in design processes and scripted into technologies and how is the diversity of older people taken into account in these processes and scripts? Chapter two analyzes the way the user is represented in “visions”, documents outlining expectations of the future of AmI. Chapter three analyzes the user representations that emerged in laboratory tests with a human-interaction robot and older test users, focusing on the importance of the identity of older people for gerontechnological innovations (e.g. robotics). Chapter four focuses on a pre-market pilot test of an AmI monitoring system for older people and analyses how the user was represented, how this affected the design of this telecare system and how the older people responded to it. The build-up of these three chapters is such that user representations are studied from the conception of AmI till the use practices in the homes of older people. The fifth chapter subsequently reflects upon the way a particularly important issue – dealing with the diversity of older people – is addressed in the first three cases. The thesis concludes by giving four dominant overarching user representations to which the most relevant insights of this thesis are tied. Finally, these insights are translated into seven suggestions (tools) for the design of technologies for older people.
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Twente
  • Oudshoorn, Nelly, Supervisor
Award date1 Sept 2011
Place of PublicationEnschede
Print ISBNs978-90-365-3224-2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sept 2011

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