Technology Tragedy: Disabling Our Communities

Day one of #NPFutures 2019 tackles the complex discussion surrounding inclusive technology design for everybody, and how poorly designed technology can disable communities.

Northern Power Futures
2 min readFeb 10, 2019

Designers developing empathy for the ageing community has long since been a challenge for creating effective assistive technologies. As crowds grow, commencing the first full panel discussion here in Newcastle, host Anja McCarthy (PhD) from the National Innovation Centre for Learning prompts discussion on the possibility of tech ‘disabling people’.

Arlind Reuter from Open Lab, Newcastle University strongly advocates co-design ideation processes with consumers to combat this effect; in particular communicating with those in marginalised market groups.

“It’s important to develop technologies that comes from the people, for the people”

Panelist Mark Scott from Tombola highlights that “with monzo you can open a bank account in 2 minutes”, resulting in many young adults being uninformed in their own finance management.

Equally rife in technology-design is a deficit in community technologies over assistive technologies. Arlind Reuter echo’s this sentiment, and shines the limelight on how we can help older people stay active and connected online.

“Wellbeing is created from being socially connected”

Unsurprisingly, over 65’s tend to experience the toughest time staying socially connected with the BBC finding 10% described themselves as often or always lonely in 2014. Neglecting this group has created a technological tragedy, where our ageing UK society is seeing increasing proportions of the population finding themselves feeling socially isolated.

Discussion at todays #NPFutures has turned towards active engagement with ageing communities to understand their true needs, and innovate accordingly without solving assumed (and inaccurate) market needs.

Arlind Reuter — Open Lab, Newcastle University

Challenging stereotypes by getting closer with consumers was an repeated theme cutting through the lunchtime panel discussion — an interesting example of which was presented by Arlind Reuter stating that ‘the biggest group of entrepreneurs is Women over 50’.

The above discussion echo’s a fundamental topic of the event; if we engage deeper in conversation and truly understand who we’re speaking to, we will all move towards a superior Northern Power Future.

Written by ACG for Northern Power Women.

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Northern Power Futures

Discussions on the future of North. Our lives in it. By those who will shape it. 2 day festivals 23–24 Nov MCR — Feb NCL