School of Computing Science,
Newcastle upon Tyne,
I am a lecturer in the School of Computing Science at Newcastle University, based in the Digital Interaction Group. Between 2010 and 2014 I worked as a post-doctoral researcher at Newcastle and Northumbria Universities, and prior to this I conducted my PhD research at Plymouth University with Transtechnology Research between 2007 and 2010.
My training is in product design but my research sits somewhere at the intersections of interaction design, human-computer interaction, gerontology, participatory research, public service design, and philosophy of mind and science and technology studies. Since 2004, I have been conducting design research on the topic of technology for later life and transitions across the life course. This has involved working on a range of projects designing digital technologies and services for and with older people – such as developing tangible and physical interfaces for ‘information appliances’ for later life socialisation, designing banking technologies for those who rely on others to help them with their shopping, and exploring intergenerational voluntary care services with groups of young and old caregivers and recipients.
During my time at Transtechnology Research, my doctoral research focused on examining the ways in which designers draw upon ideas, concepts and knowledge from the fields of cognitive science, psychology, gerontology and human factors in order to construct particular understandings of how the human ageing process impacts on interactions and engagements with technology. In my thesis, I highlighted how there is a dominance of reductionist and biomedical understandings of the human body and mind in design research focused on ageing and technology, and that the uncritical use of this knowledge leads to equally reductionist design proposals and a lack of appreciation of the agency of older people. In my thesis I responded to this through the development of an alternative framework for understanding how human cognition dynamically and contingently changes throughout the lifecourse, drawing on ideas and concepts from the embodied, ecological and enactive cognitive sciences. I then used these to develop a range of design proposals which emphasized self-reflection on how lived experience changes with age, embodying qualities of effort, friction, challenge and dynamic change. These proposals were, at the time, quite radically different to typical examples of inclusive design and technology for later life.
I have tried to take forward the critical perspectives developed during my time at Transtech in my research since, which has tended to be heavily applied research involving the prototyping and evaluation of new digital technologies for later life. While my research on ageing and technology now often touches on issues of health, care and independence, my ambition is to engender more positive attitudes towards older people and later life through technology that promotes the joys and triumphs of old age. These days, I also closely align my research with participatory and collaborative forms of design research and practice. This means I tend to work closely with participants, collaborators and co-researchers at the earliest possible opportunity in the projects I lead and contribute to.