Abstract

Technologists promise a future in which pervasive, distributed networks enable radical change to social and political geographies. Design of these abstract, intangible futures is difficult and carries a special risk of excluding people who are not equipped to appreciate the ramifications of these technological changes. The Democratising Technology (DemTech) project has been exploring how techniques from performance and live art can be used to help people engage with the potential of ubiquitous digital networks; in particular, how these techniques can be used to enfranchise people with little technical knowledge, but who nonetheless will have to live with the design consequences of technical decisions. This paper describes the iterative development of a performance workshop for use by designers and community workers. These workshops employ a series of simple exercises to emulate possible processes of technological appropriation: turning abstract digital networks into imaginable, meaningful webs. They were specifically designed to target a technologically excluded group, older people, but can also be used with other groups. We describe the process of workshop development and discuss what succeeded with our test groups and what failed. In offering our recommendations for working in this space, we consider the methodological issues of collaborating across science/art/design borders and how this impacted on evaluation. And we describe the final result: a recipe for a performance workshop, also illustrated on a DVD and associated website, which can be used to explore the dynamics of technical and social change in the context of people's own lives and concerns.

Keywords:

Performance; Older People; Marginalisation; Person-Centred; Ubiquitous Digital Networks; Interdisciplinary; Technology; Future; Evaluation

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Jul 16th, 12:00 AM

Adventures in the Not Quite Yet: using performance techniques to raise design awareness about digital networks

Technologists promise a future in which pervasive, distributed networks enable radical change to social and political geographies. Design of these abstract, intangible futures is difficult and carries a special risk of excluding people who are not equipped to appreciate the ramifications of these technological changes. The Democratising Technology (DemTech) project has been exploring how techniques from performance and live art can be used to help people engage with the potential of ubiquitous digital networks; in particular, how these techniques can be used to enfranchise people with little technical knowledge, but who nonetheless will have to live with the design consequences of technical decisions. This paper describes the iterative development of a performance workshop for use by designers and community workers. These workshops employ a series of simple exercises to emulate possible processes of technological appropriation: turning abstract digital networks into imaginable, meaningful webs. They were specifically designed to target a technologically excluded group, older people, but can also be used with other groups. We describe the process of workshop development and discuss what succeeded with our test groups and what failed. In offering our recommendations for working in this space, we consider the methodological issues of collaborating across science/art/design borders and how this impacted on evaluation. And we describe the final result: a recipe for a performance workshop, also illustrated on a DVD and associated website, which can be used to explore the dynamics of technical and social change in the context of people's own lives and concerns.

 

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