Designing online social interaction for and with older people

Markowski, Arja Marianne (2016) Designing online social interaction for and with older people. PhD thesis, Middlesex University. [Thesis]

PDF (Thesis) - Final accepted version (with author's formatting)
Download (16MB) | Preview
PDF (Appendices) - Final accepted version (with author's formatting)
Download (8MB) | Preview


This thesis describes my explorations and reflections regarding the design of online social interaction for and with older people. In 2008 when I started my doctoral investigation only a third of people over 65 years in the UK were using the Internet. This number has now increased to half of the population of 65-75 year-olds being connected to the Internet. From 2000 onwards EU wide directives increasingly encouraged research in the development of online technologies to manage the needs of an ageing population in the EU. Alongside health-related risks, the issue of social isolation is of particular interest to be tackled, considering there is a rapid development of new forms of communication and interaction media based on online technologies that could help in maintaining contact between people. A beneficial design strategy is to involve older people in the design process to ensure that technological developments are welcomed and actually used. However, engaging older people, who are not necessarily familiar with digital technologies, is not without challenges for the design researcher.

My research focuses both on design practice (the development of artefacts) and the design process for online social interaction involving older people. The thesis describes practice-led research, for which I built the Teletalker (TT) and Telewalker (TW) systems as prototypes for experimentation and design research interventions. The TT can be described as a simple TV like online audio-video presence system connecting two locations. The TW is based on the same concept has been built specifically for vulnerable older people living in a care home. The work described involves embodied real-world interventions with contemporary approaches to designing with people. In particular I explore the delicate nature of the researcher/participant relationship.

The research is reported as four sequential journeys. The first design journey started from a user-centred iterative design perspective and resulted in the construction of a wireframe for a website for older users. The second journey focused on building the TT and investigated its use in the real world by people with varied computer experience. The third journey involved designing the TW system specifically for elderly people in a care home. The fourth journey employed a co-design approach, with invited stakeholders, to reflect on the physical artefacts, discuss narratives of the previous design journeys and to co-create new online social technologies for the future.

In summary, my PhD thesis contributes to design theory by providing: a reflected rationale for the choices of design approaches, documented examples of design research for social interaction and a novel approach to research with older people (the extended showroom). It further offers insights into people's online social interaction and proposes guidelines for conducting empirical research with older and vulnerable older people.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Research Areas: A. > School of Media and Performing Arts
B. > Theses
Item ID: 18943
Depositing User: Users 3197 not found.
Date Deposited: 11 Mar 2016 15:05
Last Modified: 29 Nov 2022 22:16

Actions (login required)

View Item View Item


Activity Overview
6 month trend
6 month trend

Additional statistics are available via IRStats2.