Designing age-friendly emerging digital products. Leveraging the potential of prospective seniors to co-design future experiences.

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School of Arts, Design and Architecture | Master's thesis
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Master's Programme in Collaborative and Industrial Design
82 + 36
We are headed towards a heavily digitised future where an increasingly mature population will have to cope with constant technological advancement. With such premises, it’s easy to see an area that will likely call for design intervention: preventing the spread of digital exclusion among the older population. The goal of this work is to investigate the potential of co-design in supporting the development of future-oriented digital products, promoting inclusivity of an ageing, digitally inexperienced audience. Guiding the experimentation recounted in this document is the following research question: how to co-design the user experience of a future-oriented digital product to make it inclusive for an ageing target? Informed by academic literature and by successful examples of co-design with an ageing target, I hypothesise that, at the earliest stage of user experience ideation, a co-design approach must be applied in order for a future-oriented concept to eventually evolve into an age-inclusive digital product. More specifically, the applied co-design method must be based on four guiding principles (using craft materials to ideate interfaces, instructing participants with specific and concise tasks, including aspects of personal involvement, anticipating elements of the future while neglecting elements of the present) and be driven by the literary concept of averting age stereotype threat. I empirically test the outlined method through a series of four iterations involving eleven participants that belong to the relevant age group. These method implementations are based on an existing personal project called Timo, which consists of a concept for a social media platform based on the emerging technology of 3D scanning on mobile devices. Because Timo relies on such fairly immature technology, being therefore considered a future-oriented product, it makes a good case on which to base my experiments. The empirical iterations of the method applied to Timo allow me to draw a series of conclusions to my hypothesis. While some open questions remain, providing ground for future research, the principles hypotesised as guidelines to ensure age-inclusivity through co-design are tested, alongside the relevance of averting the threat of age stereotypes. On one hand, the driver of preventing age stereotype threat, as well as three of the outlined requirements (using craft materials to ideate interfaces; instructing participants with specific and concise tasks; including aspects of personal involvement) are proven solid. On the other hand, however, inconclusive results are obtained about the fourth and last requirement that had been hypothesised in advocacy of age-inclusive co-design of emerging products (anticipating elements of the future while neglecting elements of the present). The work, therefore, concludes with a few suggestions on how to potnentially investigate the topic further.
Salovaara, Antti
Thesis advisor
Salovaara, Antti
co-design, ageing, digitisation, future-oriented, UX, emerging designs
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