Experiences with professional theatre for awareness raising

Alan F. Newell, Margaret E. Morgan, Lorna Gibson, Paula Forbes

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    16 Citations (Scopus)


    For universal design to be successful, it is essential to understand the needs, wants and characteristics of all user groups, particularly those people who find currently available information technology systems frightening, confusing, and difficult to use. A wide range of standards and guidelines are available, but these do not always have sufficient impact on the design process. It is argued that, in order to design for such "digitally disadvantaged" people, it is important that designers develop an empathy with such groups. The paper refers to previous published work and describes more recent examples of how HCI researchers worked with theatre professionals - script writers, actors and directors - to produce a range of dramatic performances, using both film and interactive live theatre. These techniques have been used to raise awareness amongst student and professional designers of the characteristics, needs and wants of digitally disadvantaged people, and to encourage designers to develop an empathy for them. Both questionnaire and anecdotal evidence have shown the power of professional theatre in facilitating the communication of these issues to designers, and suggests how these techniques can be utilized by others in the field. The work reported has been primarily concerned with digitally disadvantaged older users - a group who, because of demographic trends are an increasingly important user group for Information and Computing Technology. It is suggested, however, that theatre can be a valuable tool for raising awareness of the challenges of other user groups, particularly those who are not experienced and confident users of Information Technology.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)594-603
    Number of pages10
    JournalInteracting with Computers
    Issue number6
    Early online date3 Sept 2011
    Publication statusPublished - Nov 2011


    • Theatre
    • Drama techniques
    • Requirements gathering
    • Awareness raising
    • Older users
    • Disabled users


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