Friday, September 2, 2016

Academia: conflicting emotions behind the moments of clarity

Katherine Anthony 
Katie Anthony_Introduction
Hi all! 
My name is Katie Anthony (though you'll see my name is Katherine - I'll answer to either) and this is my first HCI course. I am a second-year graduate student in journalism and my thesis focus will be centering around the older adult, clinically depressed population and their interactions with technology - specifically networking sites for socializing. While I think most of us can say things like "well this population just doesn't understand the technology and it scares them", there isn't much talk about the interface building and the audience impact. I'm very eager to be a part of this class and strengthen my knowledge and thesis "claims". Outside of journalism, I'm fairly involved in the School of Education as their communications graduate assistant and I am also the newsletter editor/creator for the Central Iowa chapter of NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness). I'm excited to discuss and work with you all!

We have very different focuses but I've seen a lot lately related to helping the elderly become more engaged via new technology. I think it is a great cause. When I was younger, say middle school or high school age, I used to volunteer a lot for local retirement communities. We would visit once a week and play games, chat, paint nails, and just have very simple but engaging interactions with the residents. One year, one of the places I volunteered for had an area for adults with dementia or Alzheimers. A lot of the conversations we would have would be very repetitive, but sometimes they would remember things, especially a particular patient who kept a diary of sorts. I wonder how networking sites might help them to at least maintain or engage with family. For some people, it's a lot like living in dorms, but for others they feel trapped. 
Here is an article and touching video I recently saw related to the subject. I wonder, if some of the GRIP or other high school outreach programs would be a good way to facilitate educating seniors. I've often thought similar things for even working adults in positions where this stuff might be daunting. It would also give students the opportunity to learn more about other people, help, and step out of their comfort zones.
  • Anita Kamiel, "2016"; A Hot Trend: The Internet, Social Media & The Elderly, Huffington Post,
  • Star News Online, "2010"; Social Media Opens World to Disabled, Elderly,

Thanks for reaching out! I feel like you already know me with how perfect your response was. My interest in HCI/geronology/gerontechnology actually stemmed from being a primary caretaker for my grandmother, who I worked with to try to "buy her time". She received an advance dementia diagnosis when I began college (2009) and spent every moment with her teaching her how to send emails, working with her to create step-by-step instructions for computer use, what games she could play, etc etc. I'm proud to say that she did not advance into full-blown dementia for almost four years. Unfortunately, she progressed very quickly with the Alzheimer's and passed away about 8 months after her diagnosis...but it was, without a doubt, the most profound and rewarding experience to be able to give back to someone who gave so much to me. I didn't realize how emotional and sappy that sounded - SORRY! 
I saw your major on your introductory post. It would be great to pick your brain and learn from you to see what the focus is when teaching interface! I'm also in the area (I live in Ankeny but I'm in Ames at least four times a week for work) so if you ever want to get together and chat, let me know! I think we'd make a great team and could learn a lot from each other.

Hi Katherine,
Thank you for the very open and heartwarming response. I have to tell you, I got goosebumps. The video I shared with you, really tugs at my heart strings, I've seen many like it. At heart, I'm a bit of a hermit with a passion for helping others. Volunteering, for me, has probably been more rewarding for me than anything I feel like I've ever done for anyone else and working in care centers was fun, sad, tiring, and crazy. I remember having the same conversation over and over. There was a guy in the group the ladies always loved to hit on, he was maybe 19 at the time and it was always funny and predictable, but the moments of clarity where also very happy and very sad. You could see the light come and go. For the residents without dementia, I remember having varying conversations about feeling alone, too far away, or out of touch. If only social media was easier or more people took the time to help teach others. Keeping in mind, just sitting down with someone you are likely to learn something from them as well. 
I've often thought a program for even working adults and not just seniors would be helpful. In fact, I recently had a similar conversation with someone about local judges not really understanding IT. I wonder if high school or college students couldn't team up. It would be a great way to learn more about the judicial system and help judges and lawyers learn how to use their computers, the web, and other technology.
I live in Johnston, so I would love to meetup sometime. Ankeny is very close. I work in West Des Moines and do not have any courses in Ames this semester, though I would like to make a trip or two up to meet my professors and attend one of the HCI Writing Club meetings in person. 
To be clear, I'm not yet in the program. My entrance is dependent on finding a major professor ASAP and getting a 4.0 this semester. 

Look forward to learning from you,
RE: Katie Anthony_Introduction
I'm sure that you'll be in the program and enter with flying colors! 
I completely understand where you're coming from when you mention the conflicting emotions behind the moments of clarity -- it is absolutely a bittersweet moment. I wish more people would take the opportunity and learn the patience to sit down with someone in this population - I don't know that others fully grasp just how big of a difference it makes! 
I wouldn't have even thought about the judicial system. That would be a phenomenal idea! The key to all of this is getting everyone to work together and with how polarized things are internationally, it seems like a hefty task to try to get people working together for a positive outcome! 
Let me know whenever you have some time to get together. I think it's safe to say that we're both getting adjusted to the semester courses, so no pressure -- I'm almost always around somewhere!
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Senior UI/UX web designer at a large-scale IT contractor for defense, intelligence, and civilian government solutions. Adventurist and certified Yoga / Barre Instructor. Love aviation, books, and travel.Prefer long light hearted series in mystery, comedy, fantasy, and romance.

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