Jacob Sheahan, PhD

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Hi there, i’m a design researcher exploring our ageing and technology futures

Call for Papers: Special Issue on "Connecting Older Adults to the Digital World" ︎ 

Enhancing Networks of Care
Postdoctoral Fellow
University of Edinburgh
2023 - Present

Focusing on supporting healthier and more resilient networks of care, this project investigates how we can enhance the practices, knowledge, and tools available in later life. With three core threads, I am exploring the role of community-led, service-enabled, and technology-driven care networks.

Project - Improving Technology-supported Care Networks

Project - Designing for Ecologies of Care in Later Life

Project - Developing Support Pathways with Caregivers
☞ Briefing (2023): Lessons from Engaging Informal Carers ︎ ☞ Grant (2023-2024): Wellcome Trust iTPA Springboard Grant

Designing for Social Engagement in Later Life
PhD Researcher
RMIT University
2019 - 2023

Designing social engagement technologies with older Australians, my doctorate demonstrated how modes of interpretative flexibility can support interaction designers in co-creating with ageing communities.

Long-COVID Patient Journeys
Research Assistant
RMIT University

Recognising the lack of understanding around the experiences of people with long-term, I supported a 3-month study mapping patients' experiences. This analysis highlighted the role of agency and social support in their lives. 

Worksafe by Design
Research Assistant
RMIT University
2021 - 2022

In collaboration with WorkSafe Victoria, I supported the Safeness by Design ︎ undergraduate studio to employ research and design innovation and provoke conversations around creating safer urban environments.

☞ Report (2022): Future of Work Report ︎
☞ Article (2022): Re-Imagining Industrial Design Education ︎
☞ Report (2021): Enabling an Ageing Workforce Report ︎
☞ Article (2022): Designing to Enable an Ageing Workforce ︎

Co-designing Participatory ICT Strategies With Older Adults
Research Assistant
RMIT University
2020 - 2022


Forthcoming Proceedings
Exploring Generative Postcard Futures with Older Adults

Sheahan, J., Cardamone, E., Vines, J.

NordiCHI 2024, Uppsala, Sweden.
Speculative approaches to technology-enabled ageing futures often struggle against reductive and immaterial imaginaries that diverge from everyday realities, a challenge being compounded by the mainstream embrace of generative artificial intelligence (AI) tools. We detail emergent findings from a series of workshops employing a generative postcard approach with a local community group in Scotland. The workshops captured precarious visions, generational perspectives, and potential ways of reconfiguring care futures. We highlight how the techno-deterministic visions of generative AI are both a feature and tool for critique as we link ageing futures with everyday realities.

Forthcoming Workshop
Designing with Friction: Troubling the Development of Seamless Digital Technologies.

Sheahan, J., Chatting, D., Collins., R., Bley, J., Eriksson, A., Rozendaal, M.C., Taylor, N.

NordiCHI 2024, Uppsala, Sweden.
There is growing unease and a sense within the design community of the value placed on efficient, simplified, and seamless interactions, with a growing awareness and documentation of their unintended consequences across society. By prioritizing ‘frictionless’ finance, healthcare, education products, and services, there has been a consorted effort to reduce or eliminate our daily frictions in the pursuit of efficiency and ease of use. In seeking a more balanced understanding of friction in systems design, this workshop will offer ways of bringing friction to the fore of design and examining its role across the domains of care, privacy, security, repairability, and autonomous vehicles.

Forthcoming Paper
Navigating Mediated Kinship & Care Ageing-in-Place

Sheahan, J.

Journal of Anthropology and Aging
Nearly three decades after Marilyn Strathern suggested the implications of innovation at birth, today, we are also grappling with technology's impact on later life. As assemblages of technologies have become essential to how and to whom we care, today, we also struggle with a future seemingly trapped by present choice as techno-determinist dogma appears to bind our society. Beyond imaginaries of robotically assisted and real-time monitored ageing, I examine how these new forms of kinship can serve us in realising “desirable” futures with the depth and aspirations so many have for ageing-in-place.

Conference Proceeding, 2024
Eliciting Network & Ecologies of Care in Later Life ︎

Sheahan, J., Wilson, C., Pschetz, L., Dixon, B., Vines, J.

Design4Health Conference, Sheffield
While a large body of research has documented people’s experiences of care in later life, very little of this work has explored the complex networks and entanglements of care people experience in old age. This study draws inspiration from the expanding use of care concepts like ecologies and entanglements to unravel complex care relations, offering valuable insights for design considerations. Sent to 18 older adults across Scotland, the probe encouraged reflections on daily life, leading to revelations about care expectations, preparedness, and meaningful design possibilities within caringscapes.

Guest Lecture, 2024
Exploring Generative Care Futures with Older Adults

Sheahan, J.

Glasgow Interactive Systems Group, University of Glasgow
The mainstream adoption of generative artificial intelligence (AI) tools has brought many challenges, not least of which has been how we conceive of the future and later life. While efforts to envision and create health technologies with older adults have grown, the adoption of generative systems is now reinforcing many of the stigmas and biases we have long sought to reduce in technology studies. Framing the techno-determinist visions of generative AI as both a feature and tool for critique, I discuss two recent studies examining generative stories and futures of ageing and care with older adults.

I acknowledge the peoples on whose lands I conduct my work, and respectfully acknowledge Ancestors and Elders, past, present and emerging.

©2024 Jacob Sheahan