Exploring Participants’ Representations and Shifting Sensitivities in a Hackathon for Dementia

ACM Transactions on Computer-Human Interaction(2023)

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Recent HCI research has addressed emerging approaches for public engagement. One such public-facing method which has gained popularity over the previous decade has been open design events, or hackathons. In this article, we report on DemVR, a hackathon event that invited designers, technologists, and students of these disciplines to design Virtual Reality (VR) environments for people with dementia and their care partners. While our event gained reasonable attraction from designers and developers, this article unpacks the challenges in representing and involving people with dementia in these events, which had multiple knock-on effects on participant's outputs. Our analysis presents insights into participants’ motivations, challenges participants faced when constructing their “absent user”, and the design features teams developed to address the social context of the user. We conclude the article by proposing a set of commitments for collaborative design events, community building through design, and reification in design.
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