Gerard Briscoe is a design researcher in Technology Futures, focusing on interdisciplinary design-computing research in designing digital cultures for preferable futures. This involves exploring inclusive design for equity in emerging technologies for all abilities, which requires understanding themes in digital materiality, resistance to digitisation and cyborg post-humanism. He developed his expertise in interdisciplinary design research from over a decade’s experience with inter- and multi-disciplinary research. He gained his B/MEng in Computing, and PhD in Electrical and Electronic Engineering, from Imperial College London.
His research activities centre on interdisciplinary design research at the fringe of the computing sciences with design practices. He is interested in designing digital cultures, the practices and socio-cultural meanings emerging from the use of digital technologies, to create preferable futures. Digital can be considered a marker of culture, intertwined with artefacts and systems of communication that most clearly demarcate our contemporary way of life. Distinct phenomena of digital cultures have emerged, including the shrinking of physical distance and the dissolution of material reality. They encompass ways of thinking and doing that are embodied within digital technologies, which can be dominated by tech-totalitarianism. We can therefore consider the potential of designing digital cultures to explore creating preferable futures, rather than probable tech-totalitarian ones.
He is currently part of the Design Age Institute exploring the potential of Technology Futures for ageing populations, including how emerging technologies become domesticated. Also, how practice-based design research can contribute to better understanding the potential implications of emerging technologies.
Inclusive Design: to AgeTech or not to AgeTech?
Gerard Briscoe, Royal College of Art, United Kingdom
Carroll Sidse, Royal College of Art, United Kingdom
The United Nations has identified population ageing as a global phenomenon, with virtually every country in the world experiencing growth in the size and proportion of older persons in their populations. Specifically, the share of the population 65 plus will increase from 9% in 2019 to 16% by 2050, more than doubling from 703 million to 1.5 billion.
In this context, AgeTech is expected to be a $2.7 trillion global industry by 2025, based upon having a 10% share of the growing global Longevity Economy. So, companies and investors are understandably interested in technology that would bring living longer closer to living well. While the promise of such technology is preferable, the approach of AgeTech to be exclusively designed for older people is problematic – lacking Inclusive Design in the initial development of digital technologies cannot be remedied by further lacking Inclusive Design in subsequent specialist AgeTech.
Such specialist products and services would be inherently limited, even assuming gender and ethnic inclusivity. They would likely be crisis purchases bought because of need rather than desire, lacking appeal because of potential or perceived stigma. This is because such ageism can significantly affect how ageing is understood in design, for example the notion of ‘senior’ can be associated with illness and/or disability. However, it can be estimated, at least for developed countries, that the majority of seniors are fully physically and mentally able.
For example, in the United Kingdom, from their Office for National Statistics data, 58% of those at or above state pension age (i.e. senior) are fully physically and mentally able; and for Canada, from their Statistics Canada data, the proportion is similarly estimated to be 62%. So, designers and developers need to move beyond ageist stereotypes as ageing populations are diverse, requiring design to understand and embody their diversity.
Therefore, we consider moving beyond ageist stereotypes, negative and positive, in designing preferable technology futures of living well longer. Positive stereotypes can also be harmful, for example ageism, in which the notion of ‘elder’ can create expectations on older people that cannot subsequently be met. Overall, adopting Inclusive Design in the development of digital technologies would ensure usefulness and appeal to adults of all ages, for inclusive rather than ageist technology.