Aerial view of Tintagel castle, Cornwall.Shutterstock ID: 2161121421
As society becomes increasingly digital, older people across the South West have been faced with the growing prospect of isolation and exclusion. The growth in the digital sector has also led in the past to younger people feeling they may need to leave the region in search of work in the industry.
Now a new initiative is looking to address both challenges by finding ways of engaging older generations with digital content – and encouraging younger generations to create it.
The Intergenerational Codesign of Novel technologies In Coastal communities (ICONIC) project is being led by the University of Plymouth, working alongside more than 20 partners from the public sector and the arts, as well as farming, environmental, health, and other organisations.
It will recruit 80 older and 40 younger people, who will work with researchers to develop novel technologies that will help participants connect with their community and the cultural landscapes in the region.
It will enable those unable to leave their homes, or those without regular access to public and other forms of transport, to visit sites of interest digitally.
And for those without broadband, it will provide telephone access by AI voice interface to online resources such as museums and community groups.
The project will also establish a social enterprise that will ensure the technology development and implementation is carried forward, and also ensure that younger people continue to be engaged in this digital development.
ICONIC is being funded through a £1million grant from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, and builds on a number of existing projects exploring the benefits of technology and digital inclusion. It involves researchers from across the Faculty of Health, Faculty of Arts, Humanities and Business and Faculty of Science and Engineering.
Professor Sheena Asthana, from the University of Plymouth, said:
"By supporting the collaborative design of novel technologies, the ICONIC project presents a unique opportunity to engage with local communities to address digital exclusion in Cornwall and Devon. The project has been strongly valued by our partners, with local education providers and charities identifying its potential to upskill local people as a particular benefit. Cultural, environmental, and heritage sites have also embraced the role of these novel technologies in promoting both wellbeing and digital inclusion."
Sheena Asthana. Plymouth Pioneers
Professor Sheena Asthana
Devon and Cornwall are home to some of the UK’s most loved environmental and heritage sites, and these will be harnessed using the latest digital and virtual technologies.
Enhanced virtual reality will give people the ability to move around heritage sites and significant natural landscapes, such as Tintagel Castle or the Eden Project, from their own homes or community buildings.
Social games will connect older people – including those in care homes – based on local history, culture and environment.
Underwater cameras will also enable people to explore, and engage with, the Plymouth Sound National Marine Park.
Freyja Thomson-Alberts, Public and Community Engagement Coordinator at the Ocean Conservation Trust – one of the project’s partners – said:
"The Ocean Conservation Trust is dedicated to connecting people to the ocean. We believe that everyone should be given the opportunity to experience the wonders of the ocean, no matter their age or where they live. Exploring the ocean through digital and immersive technology is a great way to provide access to communities who may be excluded typically, and we are very excited to be working on the ICONIC project.”
Sally Weston, Team Lead for the Cornwall and West Devon Mining Landscape World Heritage Site, added:
"The ambitions of the project strongly align with our published Management Plan aims to promote awareness of, and access to, the mining heritage of Cornwall and West Devon. We’re pleased to support the team in its development of platforms enabling access to parts of the World Heritage Site and other significant locations in new ways, engendering digital inclusion and encouraging careers in these new technologies for local communities.”