The Technologies to Move project is interested in technological devices that help people with acquired brain injury become mobile, especially gaining the ability to walk. Therefore, we undertook a user-centered, video-ethnographic innovation study on the practical use of walking aids in private and institutional settings.
Technologies to Move is part of an OPI-Lab-project coordinated by SenhjerneskadeCenter Nord (SCN) in cooperation with University College Nordjylland (UCN,) Aalborg University (AAU) and a private company. The project took place from February until August 2014.
The producers of the walking aid wanted to find out whether they could reach out to a new customer group and thereby also get practical (and scientifically informed) feedback on the social implications of their device. Thus, they offered, in cooperation with SCN, to help several people with acquired brain injury learn to use their walking aid for six weeks. The device was introduced and adjusted to the participants’ needs by a physiotherapist. The project was coordinated by a team from SCN while UCN did a standardized evaluation of the use of the aid. The Technologies to Move research team from Aalborg University undertook a qualitative video-ethnographic documentation of the whole process.
Our research focus
We aimed to get a better understanding of the actual use of the device and the meaning it has for the users. Therefore,
- We undertook an ethnographic video-tour (inspired by Sara Pink’s work) on the use of the new walking aid and other devices.
- We made video-ethnographic review sessions (inspired by the work of Iedema and Carroll) with a physiotherapist who helped the users with the new walking aid.
- We carried out qualitative interviews with those who used the aid.
Our interest is in both practices of moving and the social, material and personal contexts in which mobility is situated (e.g. how different it feels to go shopping using a wheelchair vs. a walking aid; users’ reasons behind using or buying a walking aid; the structures of support in the community of practice, the technical features of the device and environmental aspects, e.g. how to get a walking aid up or down the stairs). Thereby, we aim to reach a better understanding of the social and interactional impact of technologies that help immobile people get around.