The strange thing about the “undo button”

Today, I am with Valérie at the innorobo summit in Lyon, France where we presented some insights from our ethnographic study with robots in homes. We had some inspiring conversations with a couple of people after the talk and at one point somebody raised the popular “generation”-question. Thus, whether there exists a generation of “digital natives” (I name it like this, even though the term has been used less recently) which implies that these rather younger people adopt novel technology such as robots more easily than elderly people, for instance. It is true that in our own research I observed elderly people being more hesitant towards a domestic robot. Whereas I would say that in general elderly people are also open towards innovative technology it is right that we cannot talk about a generation just like a “bulk of people” (as my colleague Valérie mentioned). Though, I was asking myself, why do elderly people tend to hesitate in actually using a robot and pressing the “clean”-button (as in our case with the Roombas)? I think, it has something to do with that they are not used to the “undo button” that younger people are very familiar with. They just try something out because in any case even if it goes wrong, they can reverse it thanks to the “undo button” (in digital environments, not in the real world). But elderly people who did not grow up with the “undo button” are not used to this and hesitate longer with trying out something technological. I don’t want to say that young people don’t think about the consequences of their actions and elderly do but I have the impression that there is a difference in how people of different age approach novel technologies. It certainly depends on their experiences and expectations and both are differ between a 20 years old and an 80 years old person. When I asked an elderly lady why she didn’t use the robot, she replied she was afraid of breaking something or doing something wrong with it. Well, I’m already curious to see how I’ll think about this in 50 years from now :)


About juliafink

PhD candidate at EPFL (Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne)
This entry was posted in Conferences and events, Our ethnographic research, Random thoughts and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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