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Social Mediations through Communication Technology (SMECT)


The research project is anchored within the program Future Technology, Culture and Learning under the department of education (DPU), Arts. The leader is Louise Bøttcher, supported by PhD student Anne-Lise Laursen. The project is supported by Aarhus University Research Foundation.

Young adults with disabilities

The project has two parts. The first part explores how technologies for communication - as objects and as person-borne activities - are constructed in the social situations where language is acquired, developed and used. Focus is on the role of communication technologies for youths with disabilities on the verge of independence and their learning of skills for adult life. The design consists of two waves of in-depth interviews with youth and their families. Eight young people and their families has participated, all with severe cerebral palsy and needs of aid’s for expressing themselves. The second part of the project is a PhD project about the development of identity in young people with multiple disabilities and need for augmentative or alternative communication. The young people are all attending STU’s (Specially organized secondary education).

The aid of communication technology

Plenty of technological aids have been invented and the Danish welfare system has made huge investments in these new technologies. The challenge is how the emerging technological possibilities are translated into useful social opportunities for all types of citizens. One problem is that the application of devices, for example for communication, is understood from a ‘prosthesis-perspective’, in which technological aids are supposed to function as a transparent object enabling the person to express him- or herself. A different type of question is needed: How does the use of different technologies affect individuals and relations between individuals, their processes of learning and development of social agency? Only this type of research will lead to research-based understanding of how new technological tools support, enhance and change communication between humans. Thus, the aim of the project is to further our understanding of how technologies for communication become linked to the activity setting as a whole, rather than individual needs.

Different choices of technologies

Unlike development of verbal speech, the zone of proximal development for children using alternative ways of communicating has to be created and recreated as the children grow. Children and parent’s choices of both low-tech and high-tech communicational technologies are guided by the particular verbal and motor abilities of the child, current trends in AAC (Augmented and alternative communication) practices, available technologies and the child’s own preferences. Both the children, now young persons, and their parents figure as active agents in the construction of a mode of communication. Furthermore, the parents develop their motives from the societal value position of inclusion and a general aim ‘to give their child the opportunity to realize it’s potentials’.


Moral Imagination

The concept moral imagination is included to highlight the interrelation between imagination – what ought to be and development of motives that lead parents and professionals to envision possibilities in the other person and direct their activity. Imaginations were shaped by societal offers, trajectories and technologies in different activity settings but at times breaking with them and creating wholly new opportunities, thus illustrating how children and families can impact on and reshape their activity settings. The young people with severe disability have developed motives and new competences through participation in activity settings with relevant demands created or negotiated earlier by their parents and professionals, but increasingly also shaped by their own activity. Relevant and supportive developmental conditions for children and young people with severe disabilities require partners willing to engage in mutual imagining of how the future ought to be and role-modelling how they can make active and socially oriented demands in their social settings. (From ISCAR 2017 conference paper and article in press)


Louise Bøttcher

Associate professor Danish School of Education - Educational Psychology, Emdrup

Anne-Lise Ettrup Wahlun Laursen

PhD Student Danish School of Education - Department of Educational Psychology