Hacking and dementia

Hacking in the context of this study will be considered as a craftlike activity, that takes mastery and skill to create something new, often with a trangressive and/or playful element. It incorporates all sorts of material and digital techniques used, but I expect a focus on material hacks at this stage.

Dementia is an umbrella term for degenerative illnesses that affect the brain and lead to memory loss and/or behavioural change that influence daily activities.

In this post I want to explore the relationships in which the elements of hacker culture and dementia overlap and what questions can be generated for this research project.

One rather obvious overlap is the area of specialised hackathon events, in which designers and developers get together to find innovative solutions to specified problems. Even though an expert panel is often involved, people with dementia hardly are. This area will be discussed during the project, but as I assume now mostly in the context of expert participation and elements of co-design.

Hacking and craft: Hacking needs an element of mastery. Even though some design by use or everyday design creates new uses for everyday objects, in my opinion little of those constitute hacks as they are done unconsciously with little skills involved. In the context of dementia it will be interesting to explore whether crafters or people involved in DIY are more open to self-made solutions after a diagnosis, e.g. if this kind of activity is linked to ones life story. The element of tacit knowledge and how that can be drawn upon by people living with dementia will also be part of this exploration.

Hacking and innovation: Everyday design alters objects, but not always does it create innovative solutions. Even though putting a jacket over the back of a chair constitutes a new use for the chair, it can be observed on a nearly everyday basis and therefore does not lead to innovation. Creativity and innovation are still subjects I need to look into further, but I will do so under the context of divergent thinking and how far this is preserved in people living with dementia. The roles that partner and next of kin play as innovators will also be relevant to this exploration.
Materials and methods for ideation used form another interesting aspect of this subtheme.

Hacking and transgression: In this context I want to look into power structures between people living with dementia and their carers. Who does bring in assistive technologies and by whom are they used? Questions of identity and citizenship are touched upon in many instances of technology use in care, such as surveillance and acceptance of tools.

Hacking and wit: Even though playfulness is rarely a topic considered in the context of dementia and care, I am convinced from anecdotal evidence that is plays into the everyday experience and I consider two subthemes in this context. The first one is the question how playfulness is linked to dementia and whether this is incorporated into the everyday experience of people living with dementia. The other point is the question whether technologies, tools or strategies are developed to facilitate this exploration on the context of care.

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