Are you interested in co-creation? I talked to the student podcast UniBits of the University of Bremen about my reseach and the potential of co-creation for a more inclusive and participatory digital society.
My new book is out & open access. It reviews stereotypical (mis-)conceptions about old age & technology (design), and proposes a methodology for more inclusive and participatory public sector innovation: Co-creation.
Here comes a short summary of each of the chapters.
Introduction: There is an articulated need to engage older citizens in the design of digital services, but a lack of evidence concerning successful participation approaches. This book addresses this gap by reporting from three co-creation projects with older adults conducted as part of the EU-funded MobileAge project.
The 2nd chapter reviews dominant discourses about ageing societies and technological innovation. It argues that engaging older adults in design processes can reconfigure how and which imaginaries of old age and “successful ageing” are being scripted into technologies.
The 3rd chapter reviews key literature and concepts relating to the co-creation of digital public services: (1) Co-production of public services, (2) CoDesign and (3) civic open data use. It considers what kind of e-services may be suitable for co-creation.
The 4th chapter introduces MobileAge, the project upon which the book is based. It presents the project’s framework and methodology along seven streams of activity. A canvas describes the co-creation processes and outputs (e.g. with respect to sustainability & maintanance).
The 5th chapter reports on a project in the city district Bremen Osterholz in which a core group of 11 older residents co-created a digital district guide. The chapter describes co-creation methods such as cultural probes and data tables. It concludes with lessons learned.
The 6th chapter reports on a project in the city district Bremen Hemelingen. Co-creators defined design requirements and created content for a digital walking guide. The chapter describes different kinds of walking methods such as ideation walks, data walks and user test walks.
The 7th chapter reports on a project in Zaragoza that was facilitated by Zaragoza city council. The focus was on the improvement of an age-friendly city infrastructure. The result is an enhanced map service, which allows (older) citizens to report problems and/or propose improvements
The 8th chapter presents nine learning points from the three co-creation projects. It considers to what extent the openness of a co-creation process impacts on the sustainability of its results and the ways in which co-creation contributes to joint socio-technical future-making.
The final chapter concludes that co-creation processes are highly contingent and dependent on several factors. The learning points identified provide evidence on ways to co-create better, more user-centric public services with and for older adults.
Yesterday the first online symposium of the international network on Socio-Gerontechnology took place with more than 100 participants*. The network brings together researchers from different social science and design disciplines who are interested in critical studies of age(ing) and technology. Disciplines include public health, gerontology, sociology, science and technology studies (STS), design research and socio-informatics. Common to the scientists is an interest in the increasing digitalisation of our lives and its effects on the lives of older people, but also our image of age(ing) and the resulting (socio-)political dynamics.
Together with Helen Manchester (University of Bristol) I gave a talk entitled “Considering more-than-human participation in co-design with older adults: Implications for a material gerontology”. In this paper we argue that many gerontechnologies understand age as a problem that requires a technical solution. A good example is the recent article in the New York Times on monitoring technologies that allow children to “keep an eye” on their elderly parents in times of the Covid-19 pandemic. The problem of quarantine is presented as a “matter of fact” that needs to be solved. In our talk, we argue that design should not be understood as problem-solving, but rather as joint problem-making. With this different focus, new actors in design processes emerge and need to be involved. Design is moving from a focus on “Matters of Facts” to a practice that is concerned with “Matters of Care”.
All contributions and a recording of the event will soon be published on the network’s website.
As part of the final activities of the EU-Project Mobile, I attended a meeting of two working groups of Members of the European Parliament last week. The aim of the two-hour event was to exchange views on the opportunities and challenges of co-creation approaches to the development of digital services in age-friendly cities and communities. In particular, we presented our learnings and policy recommendations. To the event entitled: “The future of Europe is co-created. Digital public services for age-friendly cities and communities” was hosted by the Intergroup on Active Ageing, Intergenerational Solidarity and Family issues and the Urban Intergroup. More than 40 representatives* from the European Parliament, the European Commission, national and regional representations in Brussels as well as from other EU and participation projects took part in the events.
Increasingly, public services are provided digitally, but their use is still low. In the recent Ministerial Declaration (EU Tallinn 2017), EU Member States recognised that “more needs to be done” to provide digital public services close to citizens. Part of the challenge is that administrations lack the tools and experience to involve citizens in the design, planning, implementation and evaluation of digital services. As part of our Mobile Age project, we have developed and evaluated co-creation methods with older people, administrations, social service providers and researchers. In addition, a number of practical and accessible mobile applications were developed at pilot sites throughout Europe (Bremen, South Lakeland, Zaragoza and Thessaloniki). For Bremen you can find these applications for the districts Osterholz and Hemelingen on Bremen.De. In my presentation I highlighted the role of local and regional actors in the participatory development of digital services.
Parliamentarians Lambert van Nistelrooij and Jan Olbrycht moderated the following short contributions:
Kieran McCarthy, European Committee of the Regions and Cork City Council: Creating a society for digital change and innovation
Niall Hayes, University of Lancaster, Organisation, Work and Technology: The Mobile-Age approach for senior-friendly digital public services
Konstantinos Kapsouropoulos, European Commission, DG Connect: European policies for age-friendly environments
Juliane Jarke, Institute for Information Management, University of Bremen: Participatory digital service design and e-Inclusion
Susanna Laurin, CEO Funka, Stockholm: Practical implementation of tools for citizen involvement – A Norwegian government’s study
Niall Hayes, University of Lancaster, Organisation, Work and Technology: Accessible digital services for older people
Jonathan Brook, Deputy Leader of South Lakeland District Council: Connecting older adults to technological public services
Here you may find the presentation slides. A summary report of the event is published here.
MobileAge was part of a session organised by the European Commission/REA on co-production and co-creation of digital services. Together with two other EU projects, we discussed the challenges and opportunities of co-creation approaches with around 80 participants. After a short introduction to the projects, we worked in three smaller, rotating working groups on the topics of sustainability, governance and citizen involvement.
A short video of the organizers about MobileAge summarizes our results.
I am delighted to announce that the Special Issue on Probes as Participatory Design Practice which I co-edited with Susanne Maaß has been published. The special issue is interested in some of the fundamental questions of participatory design: How future users can be involved in design processes in meaningful, empowering and creative ways. The particular focus is on the ways in which (cultural) probes may serve this purpose and can be understood as participatory design practice. The concept of cultural probes was developed by Gaver, Dunne & Pacenti (1999) to collect ideas for creative design solutions from prospective users: A set of materials and questions stimulate users to observe, document, reflect and comment on their own everyday life over a certain period. Examples for such probes are diaries, cameras, postcards or maps. As a means of writing ethnographic self-description and self-disclosure and in combination with interviews or group discussions, they allow to communicate insights into everyday processes and structures, which are difficult to observe or investigate otherwise. Since their first introduction, cultural probes have enjoyed increasing interest in the field of human-centred or user-oriented software design. The concept has been amended to include concepts such as “design probes” (Mattelmäki, 2006), “technology probes” (Hutchinson et al., 2003) or “mobile probes” (Hulkko, Mattelmäki, Virtanen, & Keinonen, 2004) amongst others.
All in all, the special issue features five papers that analyse and discuss the use of probes in participatory design contexts, how users may be involved and empowered to design, contest, interpret and reflect on probes; how probes may inform a participatory design process. My colleague Ulrike Gerhard and I have contributed one paper on the use of probes in sharing (tacit) knowing between designers and participants/users and amongst participating users. The paper is based on our research and innovation project MobileAge and is available as open access.
Since my last post, we have had a busy time with our co-creators in MobileAge to not only co-design the map-based application for Bremen’s district Osterholz but to also co-creation, validate and integrate relevant data. Our participants received their own tablets for the duration of 8 weeks and actively complemented the efforts of other stakeholders in the district. We will soon launch the official app (usability tests and evaluation are still to be done).
The co-creation activities at MobileAge’s German fieldsite are progressing well. Since May 2016 researchers from ifib meet regularly with senior citizens from Bremen’s district Osterholz and other relevant stakeholders and intermediaries. One objective of MobileAge is the development of a co-creation methdology and the evaluation of suitable methods.
One method we are currently using and evaluating is called “cultural probes”. In Bremen Osterholz 11 participants were asked to keep a diary for one week, take pictures and illustrate neighbourhood maps in order to allow ifib’s researcher a glimpse into their everyday activities. These so-called “cultural probes” were subsequently analysed and each of the participants was interviewed individually for about 90 minutes. On the 12th of July we conducted a workshop were the results of the probes and interviews were discussed with the participants. Subsequently we jointly developed 3 “personas” based on workshop results and the German Senior Citizen Survey (Deutschers Alterssurvey). These personas portray different ideal types of elderly people living in Osterholz and their life situations. We discussed these personas on the 16th of August. At this workshop we identified relevant topics and themes, information and communication requirements as well as resources of senior citizens. The ideas developed so far are interesting, engaging and very relevant to the life situation of many senior citizens living in Osterholz. We are hence looking forward to the upcoming months and our further collaborative co-creation.
The next project meeting will take place on the 7th of September from 10.30 – 12.00am at the EastSide Internetcafé in Tenever. New participants are very welcome as this would be an ideal event to join our co-creation activities.
The second project meeting of our EU-funded project Mobile Age was held in the city of Zaragoza, Spain from 5th to 6th of July, 2016. Through the connection of open data, mobile technologies and public services Mobile Age aims to improve the public participation of senior citizens across Europe and facilitate their independent living. The objective is on the one hand to collaboratively develop mobile applications with and for senior citizens and on the other hand to test and implement methods for the involvement of elderly people in the development of public online services. The city of Zaragoza is besides Bremen (DE), South Lakeland (UK) and Central Macedonia (GR) one of the field sites where Mobile Age is carried out. The local government of Zaragoza already provides innovative projects for the participation of (senior) citizens.
The meeting was held in the premises of the local government. On the first day of the meeting the current state of the work packages was presented by the responsible partners. An important item was the exchange between the two pilot field sites in Bremen and South Lakeland, where ifib and Lancaster University already are working with elderly on the development of service applications. Besides, the project partner from the local government in Zaragoza reported on their already existing local activities and services for elderly. On the second day a workshop was held to coordinate the activities of the technical and the process strand and the further action was coordinated. The next meeting is going to take place in Bremen in the end of the year.