The practices and effects of involving older people in technology development
Interrogating the practices of technology development for older people in a digitalised world
In his dissertation, Björn Fischer investigates the practices and effects of involving older people during technology development.
What is your research about?
“It’s about the practices and effects of involving older people during technology development. User involvement is often seen as a way to develop hopefully better, more suitable, technologies, but there are many ways it can be differently executed in practice – in companies, design situations, or laboratories, or by involving different groups of participants. My research unravels the nitty-gritty of user involvement and, in this way, enhances our understanding of how its different practices can be linked to different outcomes,” says Björn Fischer, doctoral student in Technology in Health Care.
What applications could this lead to?
“One reason why user involvement is a rather popular intervention is that it has the potential to improve new technologies in a variety of ways. For example, designers and engineers may learn more about the intended target group.
Naturally, designers and engineers are often of a different age group than older people, so there are many opportunities for mutual learning. Eventually, such increased learning could lead not only to improved products for the aging population but also to entirely new ideas designers otherwise would not have thought of. The applications this could affect is broad and diverse: From smartphone digital applications to sensor monitoring technologies to robots and AI – all technology development could be impacted by different user involvement procedures.”
What impact could it make on society?
“Society is becoming increasingly digitalized, and of course then it becomes an important issue that those novel technologies really contribute to society’s needs. Digital inclusion of older people has become an important topic, especially after Covid-19, but still, not many of those specifically targeted technologies are successful. It is in this context that my thesis addresses the question of how far user involvement is a viable intervention to improve technologies developed – both for society as such, as well as for the older population segment specifically.”
How did you become interested in this subject?
“I have a background in industrial engineering and innovation sciences, and I guess this background made me curious about how technology development fits together with other important areas of society. These interests continue to motivate me to contribute to the development of breakthrough technologies that are not just novel, but also meaningful to its users, designers, and society at large.”
Text: Åsa Karsberg