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Journal of Interactive Media

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Volume 17, Issue 2


The Crucial Role of Cultural Probes in Participatory Design for and with Older Adults

Susanne Maaß
  • Corresponding author
  • Universität Bremen, Fachbereich 3 Mathematik/Informatik, Bibliothekstr. 5, 28359, Bremen, Germany
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  • De Gruyter OnlineGoogle Scholar
/ Sandra Buchmüller
  • Universität Bremen, Fachbereich 3 Mathematik/Informatik, Bibliothekstr. 5, 28359, Bremen, Germany
  • Technische Universität Braunschweig, Institut für Flugführung, Hermann-Blenk-Str. 27, 38108 Braunschweig, Germany
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Published Online: 2018-08-07 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/icom-2018-0015


Software systems meant to support older adults often are not well accepted as they do not meet the expectations and requirements of the target group. An involvement of older adults in system design seems imperative. The project ParTec investigated and evaluated techniques for participatory software development with regard to their suitability for communication and equal cooperation with older adults. With a group of 15 retirees we developed concepts for an online neighbourhood platform. Using various participatory techniques researchers and participants developed a deep common understanding of everyday life in early retirement, determined requirements and co-created design ideas and concepts. We will show that the use of cultural probes with subsequent qualitative interviews forms an ideal starting point and a strong fundament for a participatory design process with older adults.

Keywords: software development; design for the elderly; participatory design; third space; cultural probes; interviews; personas; scenarios; prototyping; neighbourhood platform; online networks


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About the article

Susanne Maaß

Susanne Maaß is a professor for Applied Informatics and leader of the work group Sociotechnical Systems Design and Gender (SoteG) at the Department for Mathematics and Informatics of the University of Bremen, Germany. She works in the area of requirements elicitation, participatory design, user-oriented software development and computer-supported cooperative work, integrating gender and diversity aspects in her teaching and research.

Sandra Buchmüller

Sandra Buchmüller is research associate at the Maria-Goeppert-Mayer-Professorship “Gender, Technology, Mobility” at the Institute of Flight Guidance at the Technical University of Braunschweig, Germany. Before that she worked for the research project Participatory Design of Technologies for Demographic Change (ParTec) at the Department of Mathematics and Informatics at the University of Bremen, Germany. She studied at the Cologne International School of Design and holds a doctorate from the Berlin University of the Arts. Her main concern is to translate, adapt and integrate theories and approaches from gender & queer studies, feminist science and technology studies, participatory and critical design approaches into research and practices of engineering sciences.

Published Online: 2018-08-07

Published in Print: 2018-08-28

Citation Information: i-com, Volume 17, Issue 2, Pages 119–135, ISSN (Online) 2196-6826, ISSN (Print) 1618-162X, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/icom-2018-0015.

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