Design, Agency and a Sense of Wellbeing by Ann Light

Event details

  • When: 28th November 2011 14:00 - 15:00
  • Where: Phys Theatre C
  • Series: CS Colloquia Series
  • Format: Colloquium


In Capability and Wellbeing, Sen (1993) says that acting freely and being able to choose may be directly conducive to wellbeing, not just because more freedom may make better alternatives available, but because the action of choice is itself a freedom. This talk reflects on three projects with older people and considers their sense of agency in thinking about interactive systems and future technologies, looking particularly at how agency might contribute to a sense of wellbeing. Although a theme running through the talk is the design of digital tools, the discussion takes a broad view of the factors to be considered in human-computer interaction.

Sen, Amartya. (1993). Capability and Well-Being. In M. Nussbaum and A. Sen, eds. The Quality of Life, pp. 30–53. New York: Oxford University Press.


Ann Light is a Professor in the School of Design at Northumbria University. Among other research, she has just completed a study on Digital Inclusion involving the councils of South Yorkshire and two AHRC Connected Communities projects on participation, and she recently helped set up a mobile phone innovation incubator with Makerere University in Uganda. Her interests include the social impact of technology and the politics of design, explored through design research such as Democratising Technology (DemTech: and Fair Tracing ( Drawing on this experience, she is currently working with the idea of Digital Interdependence: the potential for digital technologies to help build social structures and sustainable lifestyles for all.

Ann publishes on human-computer interaction, cross-cultural methodology, interactive media and design, with an focus on meaning-making and experience of technology, begun in studies of websites and online discussion in 1995 and now turned upon mobile and ubiquitous contexts of use. She is visiting researcher at the University of Sussex, and at Queen Mary University of London (where she worked in the Drama department for 18 months, looking at performance techniques for engaging communities in design activity).

Ann Light, School of Design, Northumbria University