You’re Not a Technological Idiot

Jack Barton | 2014-06-09 04:43:22

The current implementation of technology, whilst having a growing influence, is ultimately flawed. It seems developers are determined to stick to one primary assumption… that you, as users do not know or cannot learn what you are doing.

It is well recognised that the technological world is growing in capabilities, not least in the health and social care sector where opportunities are presenting themselves to better understand, diagnose and manage long term conditions.

However a huge bug bearer of mine is that a lot of technology is on the road to becoming embarrassingly patronising, making it undesirable for the end user and potentially unsustainable. Why is it so difficult to recognise that, whilst technology is improving at an exponential rate, so is your knowledge of how to use it? To what extent is the potential of such interfaces being limited in an attempt to make it more ‘user friendly’ or in a more cynical world, easier for an end user to use without a trained (paid) staff members to educate in the first instance. One may argue that it’s not the incapability of you to learn but rather the lack of desire from the powers that be to teach you. My 78 year old grandmother can use her digital television box more intelligently than I can, she survived the Second World War, I’m damn sure she wasn’t recording ‘Only Fools and Horses’ so she could catch up in between bombings! She learnt and now utilises a technology which many would argue is extremely complex in nature.

More simple interface will be necessary for many individuals to effectively use technologies. I’m just saying that it is naïve and detrimental to progress to assume that generalising populations such as the elderly into one category is optimal.  The key here is choice – choice of interface and choice of complexity.

Many users are self limited in belief whereas with a bit of pushing they are capable of learning new technologies.   If scientific research into this field has taught us anything it’s that the process of learning itself will provide benefit to your mental health, even if the knowledge doesn’t always stick.

Here’s hoping the technological industry recognises that whilst they are growing in capabilities, so are you as end users, maybe it’s time to recognise that when thinking about future developments. For now, I can see a group so inspired to help the older generation that they are forever chasing their tails developing overly simplistic technology for advanced users – we need a range of technologies and choice to use them.

Jack Barton (Researcher, Rescon Ltd)