In spring 2016, long-term field studies with potential users of GeTVivid have been conducted in Vienna, Nürnberg, and Basel. Overall, 35 older adults that were interested in the GeTVivid platform participated in the 10-week field trial, wherein in the first week of the study conduction, the participants were equipped with a tablet, a set-top box and the GeTVivid platform, running on their TV sets in their homes. The main goal of these field studies was, to investigate how the participants experience the platform over a longer period of time and to test the technical feasibility of the solution in a real, long-term setting.
Christiane Moser and Bernhard Feldbacher (both from the University of Salzburg), therefore, visited all participants in the three cities in their homes to install the technical equipment and to conduct collective workshops at each site to introduce the participants to the platform and how they can use it. During their stay, Christiane and Bernhard conducted interviews and handed out a diary to the participants. They were asked to fill out the diary during the study to document their experiences with the platform while using it at home, i.e., documenting good/valuable experiences, but also issues that came up while interacting with the platform. The diary also included some questionnaires (e.g., on accessibility, trust, curiosity) that had to be filled out after specific weeks during the field studies. Then, the actual field study, where participants had to use the platform for 8 weeks has started. During this time, one community manager (i.e., a representative from the EUOs) at each city was responsible to support the participants during this period in, for example, building up a community, providing them triggers where they could provide/take support to/from other users, or supporting them when technical issues occurred. After these 8 weeks, Katja Neureiter and Alina Krischkowsky (both from the University of Salzburg), came back to the participants homes to de-install the technical setup and to conduct interviews to investigate how the participants have experienced the usage of the GeTVivid platform over time. Throughout a qualitative and quantitative analysis of the gathered data (i.e., from the pre-interviews, the field trials, and the post-interviews), we came up with a vast variety of results whereby the most central ones are outlined in the following.
First of all, and maybe most importantly, the participants in general have articulated to highly value the idea of GeTVivid. They like the idea of bringing like-minded people together to support each other on a frequent basis. They really like the possibility for social exchange on the platform and to get in contact with unknown people to make potentially new friends with. With our gathered data, we were confirmed in our perspective that the community size and the distance between community members, is critical for the success of the platform. Participants’ emphasized that community members should be arranged in local clusters to allow for rather easy and feasible support-exchange. Also, they articulated the need for a certain community size (i.e., critical mass) to allow for traffic on the platform and to assure that the users’ interests for support-exchange and interests can be met on the platform. Furthermore, and this is a highly important lessons-learned from the study is that community managers are highly important to build up and facilitate a living, engaging, and sustaining community on GeTVivid. They are central anchor points for the users to relate to and ask questions if needed.
Overall the results of the pilot study showed a significant improvement of the GeTVivid platform throughout the project through the iterative involvement of users and experts. Developing one interface that can be used on a TV and mobile device at the same way was very challenging, but in the end we succeeded. However, the handling of a new/additional set-top box to access the GeTVivid platform caused unforeseeable difficulties and unfortunately resulted in partial rejection of using the platform on the TV in the pilot studies. Whereas, the mobile interface on the tablet and its intuitive handling were more accepted than expected in the beginning of the project, which might be due to the already high penetration of older tablet users nowadays. Throughout the pilot studies we learned that we are on a good way to achieve our major goal (i.e., building up an an online peer-to-peer exchange platform to empower older adults with mild impairments to benefit from receiving support for daily activities and reciprocally offering support to others), but getting access to the right target group is challenging, in order to support informal care practices by mediating them online (i.e., successfully negotiating and establishing a collaboration). We still consider older adults as active and equal partners in support exchange and the GeTVivid platform is one step in the right direction to support them.