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Conversely, engagement with technology can become difficult and cumbersome for people in later life, for example difficulty with the graphic user interface, pressing multiple buttons (Marston, 2013) and any peripheral devices and/or screens (e.g. smartphones) due to age-related health issues (e.g. dexterity, eyesight issues and cognitive changes) and for people who have various disabilities. Virtual assistants (VAs) can allow people (including older adults) who experience such difficulties the opportunity to still gain benefits from technology such as enjoying listening to music, setting medication reminders and making telephone calls, including critically point of contacts and/or emergency phone contacts (White et al., 2020). As noted by Marston and Samuels (2019), VAs afford people of all ages to achieve a series of tasks, while Sheerman et al. (2020) and White, et al. (2020) note how VA smart speaker technology and other respective technology devices can function as an emergency response system and help older people connect with friends and family and link to vital services and offering assistance. There are two papers in this collection focussing on voice assistants or smart speaker technology. The fifth paper in this special issue is by Nallam et al. (2020) who explored using voice assistants or smart speakers to provide health information to older adults from low-income backgrounds. However, the sixth paper by Chung et al. (2021) identified low-income older people living in residential accommodation using smart speakers or VA technology to provide reminders and support for their daily needs, such as a daily living assistance tool, a social activities reminder, a medical appointment reminder, a medication reminder and an information provider including providing health tips and the news.
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There always is a performative aspect tographic chat environments and -- no matter ifthe conversation centers on mundane activities-- you are never sure if you are interactingwith an alternate identity that has little to dowith its 'physical' alter ego ("on the Internetnobody knows that you're a dog," as theysay). Conceptually, 'AVATARA' is based on adeliberate break with the performance format,introducing the audience to the 'real' peoplebehind the avatar and asking them to reflecton their being and environment instead of'performing' within it. The set-up seems to leadto an interesting genre in and of itself, oscillatingbetween the ridiculous and sublime -- thinkthe cast of X-Men being interviewed on themovie set, inhabiting their costumes like asecond skin yet seemingly unaware of theirappearance and surroundings and earnestlytalking about their off-screen life and craft asan actor or fluently switching back and forthbetween their two different lifes. As one of theinhabitants of Traveler points out, an avatarultimately is just an extension of "the maskeverybody has to wear out there," but, asopposed to the physical world, the roles youplay in a virtual world are not determined asmuch by social and cultural conventions: theycan be the product of your fantasies -- whichmay turn out be yet another product of conditioningbut are by nature closer to a dreamworld.
The rooms people created in the online world -- documented morein-depth in the Art chapter of the DVD -- are as much an expressionof their personality as their avatar, and the 'filmmakers' are in thelucky position to have a choice among many inventive scenes as abackdrop for the conversations. (One interview features Kalki andthe avatar Doppler cruising along the screen in the 'Little Train Ride'created by Angle Grinder.) 'AVATARA' features the online world at itsbest -- a community-building technology that offers a creative outletfor everyone -- yet doesn't neglect the darker aspects of any socialfabric. One of the inhabitants cites the loneliness experienced in alife where the only human interaction of the day may be that with thesalesperson at the local store as a major reason for her extensivepresence in the online environment. The Wars segment tells thestory of the world's 'free speech wars' (in 1999) that temporarilyruined the server and features an 'avatar bonking attack' (reminiscentof a group of kids jumping in front of the TV camera and interruptingan interview by screaming 'Hi Mom'). In another scene,Purple Tears shows the room she created as a reaction to an onlinerelationship that turned into oppressive jealousy -- the room beinginspired by Alanis Morissette's song Uninvited and consisting of acage with keys floating around it. Considering the personal storiesand conflicts featured on the DVD, it seems justified that the 'filmmakers'label their work as a Docudrama. Not surprisingly, thegraphic chat world is a reflection of many of our physical world's tensionsand conflicts.