Installing Telecare, Installing Users: Felicity Conditions for the Instauration of Usership
(co-written with Daniel López, Celia Roberts & Miquel Domènech)
This article reports on ethnographic research into the practical and ethical consequences of the implementation and use of telecare devices for older people living at home in Spain and the United Kingdom. Telecare services are said to allow the maintenance of their users’ autonomy through connectedness, relieving the isolation from which many older people suffer amid rising demands for care. However, engaging with Science and Technology Studies (STS) literature on “user configuration” and implementation processes, we argue here that neither services nor users preexist the installation of the service: they are better described as produced along with it. Moving beyond design and appropriation practices, our contribution stresses the importance of installations as specific moments where such emplacements take place. Using Etienne Souriau’s concept of instauration, we describe the ways in which, through installation work, telecare services “bring into existence” their very infrastructure of usership. Hence, both services and telecare users are effects of fulfilling the “felicity conditions” (technical, relational, and contractual) of an achieved installation.
Keywords: Telecare, older people, installation, configured user, felicity conditions, instauration, Souriau
First of all, we would like to thank Nizaiá Cassián for the collaborative work that led to the idea of this paper. Secondly, the research shown here is part of the project “Ethical Frameworks for Telecare Technologies for older people at home” (EFORTT, funded by the European Commission’s FP7 SiS programme, project no. 217787). We would like to thank Maggie Mort as coordinator of the project as well as the research teams for discussions. Thirdly, our acknowledgment goes to the different telecare services and users that took part in our studies, without whose support none of this could have been possible. Last but not least, the authors would also like to thank the two anonymous reviewers for their helpful comments in the development of this paper.
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