Unintended consequences: On conducting ethical sociotechnical research with/for older people

Barbara Barbosa Neves, Sergio Savago

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference PaperOtherpeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


Despite a growing concern with ethics in sociotechnical studies with/for older people (aged 65+), we still lack an exploration of strategies to identify and tackle potential negative effects that can emerge during and after the research. This is particularly critical when working with frail participants, vulnerable groups, or sensitive settings. How can we ensure that the technology we develop and/or evaluate does not harmfully impact our research participants, even if unintentionally? Drawing on a case study of a communication app developed to address loneliness and social isolation in later life, as well as on years of ethnographic fieldwork with older people, we argue for an ethical display approach. This approach: i) bridges procedural and situational ethics, ii) engages ethics throughout the research process, and iii) maps both positive and negative 'unintended consequences', applying Robert K. Merton's sociological framework.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationProceedings of CISTI 2019 - 14th Iberian Conference on Information Systems and Technologies
EditorsRamiro Goncalves, Isabel Pedrosa, Manuel Perez Cota, Alvaro Rocha
PublisherIEEE, Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers
ISBN (Electronic)9789899843493
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2019
Externally publishedYes
Event14th Iberian Conference on Information Systems and Technologies, CISTI 2019 - Coimbra, Portugal
Duration: 19 Jun 201922 Jun 2019

Publication series

NameIberian Conference on Information Systems and Technologies, CISTI
ISSN (Print)2166-0727
ISSN (Electronic)2166-0735


Conference14th Iberian Conference on Information Systems and Technologies, CISTI 2019


  • Ethics
  • Human-computer interaction
  • Older adults
  • Sensitive settings
  • Sociotechnical research
  • Vulnerable populations

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