Mediating relatedness for adolescents with ME: Reducing isolation through minimal interactions with a robot avatar, by Alma Leora Culen, Jorun Borsting, William Odom in Proceedings of the 2019 on Designing Interactive Systems Conference, Pages 359-371


This paper discusses how a networked object in the form of a small robot designed to mediate experiences of care, social connectedness, and intimacy, was used by adolescents with Myalgic Encephalomyelitis, a condition that reduces their normal functioning, including the ability to socialize.

A study with nine adolescents, each using the robot for about a year in average, revealed that it was largely effective at mediating their everyday experiences of relatedness, triggering productive new habits and social practices.

We interpret these findings to propose a set of strategies for designing technologies that support relatedness while requiring minimal interactivity and engagement.

Balance, extension-of-self, coolness, and acts-of-care, in addition to commonly used physicalness, expressivity and awareness, enable the robot to extend the adolescents’ ability to relate to others, people and animals.


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