, Volume 8, Issue 1, pp 21-32
Date: 06 Jun 2008

Representing older people: towards meaningful images of the user in design scenarios

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Designing for older people requires the consideration of a range of design problems, which may be related to difficult and sometimes highly personal matters. Issues such as fear, loneliness, dependency, and physical decline may be hard to observe or discuss in interviews. Pastiche scenarios and pastiche personae are techniques that employ characters to create a space for the discussion of new technological developments and user experience. This paper argues that the use of fictional characters can help to overcome restrictive notions of older people by disrupting designers’ prior assumptions. In this paper, we reflect on our experiences using pastiche techniques in two separate technology design projects that sought to address the needs of older people. In the first pastiche scenarios were developed by the designers of the system and used as discussion documents with users. In the second pastiche personae were used by groups of users themselves to generate scenarios which were scribed for later use by the design team. We explore how the use of fictional characters and settings can generate new ideas and undercut the potential in scenarios, for weak characterisation of “the user” to permit scenario writers to fit characters to technology rather than vice versa. To assist in future development of pastiche techniques in designing for older people, we provide an array of fictional older characters drawn from literary and popular culture.