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Cultural gerontology conference: Galway

Just back from attending my first gerontology conference – lots of food for thought, some of which I express below, much of which I hope to feed into the Tangible memories project as it develops…

Meanings and metaphors of home

Several papers explored the meaning of and metaphors of ‘home’ in later life. I particularly enjoyed Sheila Peace’s presentation and will follow up on her call to look at Iris Marion Young’s (2005) work on identity and homemaking. Sheila explored the different understandings of ‘domestic’ and ‘institutional’, drawing on individual case studies to highlight home as an intergenerational space, home as an orientating space, home as remembered past, supporting present and concealing future, and home as dwelling/ as a receptacle of continuity and change.

 Susan Braedley’s work offered a counterpoint to this suggesting that the concept of ‘home’ is generally unhelpful when applied to care home design and development. Drawing on an international project (Healthy Ageing in Residential Places – in which she is working with Liz Lloyd, University of Bristol amongst others) she suggested that metaphors of ‘home’ tend to dominate care home design and that in her view this was unhelpful and should be reframed to rather focus on concepts such as respect, dignity and equity. Susan’s insightful work touched on the unhelpful discourses surrounding institutions as nightmare places in comparison to the warmth of home. She pointed out how these discourses shape the policies and practices in new facility design, staff models and care relationships in particular ways that tend not to highlight social justice (both for staff and for older people living in these facilities).

Digital co-production and passionate scholarship

In a symposium organised by Kim Sawchuk a number of interesting papers and presentations explored co-design and co-production work with older people in making digital resources and content. Jospeh Blat discussed the work of his HCI research group who utilise co-production and ethnographic methods in designing games and other digital content for use by older people. It was great to hear of other HCI departments working in this realm, Joseph’s deep understanding of the power of ethnographic methods in HCI was refreshing. Kim’s own presentation focused on her ongoing work with a variety of activist community organisations run by older activists. She discussed what ‘Activist ageing’ (as opposed to ‘Active ageing’) might mean and the need for public (digital) records of the campaigning work that older people do. Drawing on a term used earlier in the day at Mim Bernard’s Ages and Stages symposium she described her work as passionate scholarship. Wendy Martin from Brunel University then presented on her interesting work using photo voice methods with older people, here I was left wanting to hear more about the challenges related to the use of digital technologies in researching with older people. The symposium finished with a highly personal piece in which Aynsley Moorhouse presented and shared an audio piece that she had developed using naturalistic recordings and hours of conversation between herself and her father as he was diagnosed with and experienced the ongoing symptoms of dementia. Aynsley’s paper was moving and honest and she then shared her audio work with us – the lights were turned off, permitting tears to fall.

Future technologies and older people

My paper session was opened by Caroline Holland who led the delegates through a whistle top tour of sociotechnical change and the implications of some of these changes both now and in the future. Caroline’s work is of particular interest to the Tangible memories team as she has done various studies exploring environment and usability of novel technological solutions with older people.

My paper presented some of our initial findings concerning loss of objects, meanings of home and the range of stimuli for stories we are finding useful in working with our widely diverse groups of older people in care settings. I concluded that there is a need to better understanding the relationship between material artefacts and records and digital representations; that digital curation should be understood as a process of translation between the material and the immaterial; and by pointing out the need for a ccommitment to collaborative research and co-curation of life stories with novel technologies whilst retaining ethical relationships that stress mutuality, dignity and reciprocity.

Connected Communities Festival: Cardiff July 2014

Great news for the project today that our proposal for the Connected Communities Festival in Cardiff has been accepted.  The aims of our proposal were:

1. To create an immersive, portable installation, utilising novel tangible technologies and a set of dissemination materials, recreating a care home setting, in which audience members will be encouraged to:

  • engage meaningfully in thinking about community, object based story telling and tangible technologies in care home settings
  • drink tea, eat cake and engage in conversation with older people, academics and community experts working with us to discuss our experiences of being involved in co-produced research where technology is being co-designed with older people
  • experiment with and reflect on some of our novel technological prototypes to tell their own stories

2. The installation will enable us to user test some of our prototyped novel tangible technologies for storytelling with a wider audience and to collect data on the accessibility and effectiveness of the co-designed technologies.

3. To create an installation and dissemination materials that can be re-purposed to spread a message to policy makers, members of the public and academics about the need to re-imagine care homes of the future e.g. to develop ‘community’ in care, person centred care and the use of novel tangible technologies to enable stories and memories to be shared in care home settings and beyond.

4. To explore the practical and ethical challenges in including our older people in the dissemination of the project. E.g. How dementia friendly are these kind of events? How easy is it to navigate issues of accessibility?

cc-sketch

 

What Are You To Me?

A few of us went and visited the installation “What Are You to Me?” in the Centrespace Gallery yesterday afternoon. In their own words:

What Are You To Me? Is an interactive multimedia installation that explores how we might remember the lives of our grandparents, taking audiences on their own personal journey through the fragmented re-imagining of three culturally diverse families. It is an archive of memories, where sights, sounds and smells become the trigger for audiences to access their own memories, wishes and regrets.

The installation provided a great opportunity for us to think about ways of triggering memories. Some ideas we discussed after the visit included:

  • The tags only contained a small amount of text but were really good at evoking a whole scene. Keeping stories short, or at least having a synopsis seems like a good idea.
  • The use of smells/odours/scents was really interesting when combined with the tags.

View through an old handheld slide viewer:
slide

The smell library:
smell

Tags and photos:
peg-photo