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The Prayer Companion: Openness and specificity, materiality and spirituality

Lookup NU author(s): Emeritus Professor Pete Wright


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In this paper we describe the Prayer Companion, a device we developed as a resource for the spiritual activity of a group of cloistered nuns. The device displays a stream of information sourced from RSS news feeds and social networking sites to suggest possible topics for prayers. The nuns have engaged with the device enthusiastically over the first ten months of an ongoing deployment, and, notwithstanding some initial irritation with the balance of content, report that it plays a significant and continuing role in their prayer life. We discuss how we balanced specificity in the design with a degree of openness for interpretation to create a resource that the nuns could both understand and appropriate, describe the importance of materiality to the device's successful adoption, consider its implications as a design for older people, and reflect on the example it provides of how computation may serve spirituality.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Gaver W, Blythe M, Boucher A, Jarvis N, Bowers J, Wright P

Publication type: Conference Proceedings (inc. Abstract)

Publication status: Published

Conference Name: CHI 2010: Proceedings of the SIGCHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems

Year of Conference: 2010

Pages: 2055-2064

Publisher: ACM Press


DOI: 10.1145/1753326.1753640

Notes: CHI (Computer-Human Interaction) is the ACM’s premier international conference on human factors in computing systems. The acceptance rate for papers was 22%. This paper was one of those nominated for a best paper award. The paper is one of the outputs from the Landscapes project which is funded by the RCUK New Dynamics of Ageing Programme. Landscapes seeks to design innovative ICTs for the older old (people over 85, often frail and vulnerable) and has been carrying out user research and participatory design in particularly challenging residential environments.

Library holdings: Search Newcastle University Library for this item

Sponsor(s): SIGCHI ACM Special Interest Group on Computer-Human Interaction

ISBN: 9781605589299