Connecting grandparents and young grandchildren over distance

Date created: 
Domestic Computing
Family Communication
Grandparent-Grandchild Communication
Video Communication Systems
Awareness Systems

This doctoral work aims to explore how to best design communication systems to connect distance-separated grandparents and young grandchildren. While previous research explored doing and sharing limited fun activities such as story-telling, they tended to not focus on direct conversation where grandparents and grandchildren might share their personal stories, achievements and experiences. This dissertation is comprised of three research stages: First, I present an interview and diary study exploring the current and desired communication patterns and social situations and challenges in grandparent-grandchild communication over distance. The results describe the focus of grandparent-grandchild conversation over distance and show both parents and grandparents must deal with social issues that arise from potential interference and a lack of truly knowing one’s grandchild (leading to self-consciousness and feelings of perceived annoyance). Second, I outline an iterative design approach that resulted in designing a shared calendar and video messaging system, G2G by using the knowledge gained from the first study. The design focused on providing grandparents and grandchildren with an awareness of each other’s lives to support conversations and design elements to help reduce the need for parent scaffolding. Third, I present a field study that evaluated G2G with two grandparent-grandchild pairs over two months. The result from this study reveals that systems designed around structured communication can help young children develop a routine around staying in touch with their remote grandparents. Autonomy in maintaining awareness can help children to be engaged more easily. This suggests that designs focusing on connecting young children to their grandparents over distance should be flexible yet structured and designing to reduce parental scaffolding can lead to positive effects and strengthened relationships. This dissertation articulates the challenges of connecting young grandchildren and grandparents over distance. The work and insights presented in this dissertation can be used as foundation blocks for future exploration by researchers and designers focusing on family communication and domestic computing in the field of Human-Computer Interaction.

Document type: 
This thesis may be printed or downloaded for non-commercial research and scholarly purposes. Copyright remains with the author.
Carman Neustaedter
Communication, Art & Technology: School of Interactive Arts and Technology
Thesis type: 
(Thesis) Ph.D.