“The Lady is Not There”: Repairing Tita Meme as a Telecare User

Francisco Martínez & Patrick Laviolette have recently compiled the edited volume Repair, Breakages, Breakthroughs: Ethnographic Responses, which they explain as follows:

What does it mean to claim that something is broken? What is the connection between tinkering and innovation? And how much tolerance for failure do our societies have? Exploring some of the ways in which repair practices and perceptions of brokenness vary culturally, Repair, Brokenness, Breakthrough argues that repair is an attempt to extend the life of things as well as an answer to failures, gaps, wrongdoings and leftovers. The set of contributions illustrates the strong affective power hidden in situations of disrepair and repair; broken objects often bring strong emotions into play, but also energising reactions of creative action.

In response to their kind invitation, I contribute with a short piece, summarising a chapter published in 2012 in Spanish as part of my PhD. In an ethnographic snapshot–in the vocabulary of the editors–I address ‘repair’ from the particular work of underpinning users in a telecare service for older people.

ABSTRACT

Repair has been addressed in the growing body of literature in the social sciences either as a restoration of social order or as a form of care for fragile things. Drawing from ethnographic work on a telecare service for older people in Spain between 2007 and 2011, I address here repair from the ‘flesh and bones’ side of it. In particular, I focus on the work undertaken by service workers, users and contacts alike that helps to maintain an infrastructure of usership: not a restorative form of medical rehabilitation, but a constant restoration of a web of embodied, legal and technical practices so that someone could be considered a user of a service. That is, an infrastructure creating and ensuring the conditions for (tele)care to happen or take place in compliance with contractual terms. Rather than as a form of ‘re-instauration’ (going back to square one, revitalising and polishing in practice the terms of the contract), I call their form of repair ‘underpinning’. It entails going with the flow, and acting thereon. Underpinning could be described as a form of repair that addresses habits as things going beyond the skin, in and through different mediators that connect uneven events and places. To underpin, hence, is to ensure on the go a certain topology of habit: a habitality.

Published in Repair, Breakages, Breakthroughs: Ethnographic Responses (pp. 67–72). Oxford: Berghahn | PDF

Nordic Design Research Society (Nordes) 2019 conference “Who cares?”- Keynote on ‘how to care’

The Nordic Design Research Society (Nordes) organises its 8th biannual conference next 3–4 June 2019 at the Aalto University in Helsinki (Finland), under the timely topic ‘Who cares?‘, whose call looks fantastic:

 What do, or should, we care about in design and design research today? Underpinning the question are issues of culture and agency – who cares, for whom, and how? Taking care, or being cared for, evokes the choice of roles, and processes of interaction, co-creation and even decision-making. Caring, as a verb, emphasizes care as intention, action and labor in relation to others. Care can be understood as concern for that beyond oneself, for others and, thus, human, societal and even material and ecological relations are at stake. The question of care is also a call for questioning relationships, participation and responsibility, democratic and sustainable ways of co-existing. From this expansive societal standpoint, we could even ask who cares about design? And what should we do about it? The 8th biennial Nordes conference poses the question, “Who cares?”, exploring related questions, issues and propositions concerning responsibilities, relationships, ways of doing and directing design today.

[…]

In the 2019 Nordes conference, we draw inspiration from notions of care as a lens through which to reflect upon and critique as well as potentially to refocus and redirect design and design research. Care might be understood in relation to philosophical lines of inquiry in other disciplines exploring theories, politics and ethics of care. Care might be understood concretely in relation to the ideals and infrastructures of welfare and healthcare systems, or service interactions. Care might be understood personally as a mindset seeking out what is meaningful for people, and for life, and with design as reflective and skilled action concerned with improving things and preferred situations.

Thanks to the generous invitation of the organising committee I will have the immense honour to act as one of the keynote speakers, contributing to one of the main themes of the conference: ‘How to care?’ (Care and care-ful materials, methods and processes in design and design research) – For this, I will be sharing my anthropological work on and my different modes of engagement with inclusive design.

IH, CCHS-CSIC | Seminario de Investigación: “Estados del cuidado: Para una genealogía del bienestar en crisis”

 

estados_del_cuidado

Miércoles, 15 de Marzo 2017, 12-13:30, en la Sala Gómez Moreno 2C del Centro de Ciencias Humanas y Sociales del CSIC (C/Albasanz 26-28, Madrid), estaré presentando algunos elementos de mi trabajo etnográfico reciente y su contextualización.

Organiza: Grupo de Investigacíón “Mundialización y mundialización de la ciencia” (IH, CCHS-CSIC)

Estados del cuidado: Para una genealogía del bienestar en crisis

‘Estados del cuidado’ quisiera ser una indagación no sólo de las formas en que los estados han querido arrogarse las competencias y dotarse de infraestructuras para cuidar, sino también del estado en que queda el cuidado por los diferentes modos en que esto se hace. La presentación, aunque resonando sobre el material etnográfico de mi trabajo reciente, tendrá un cariz genealógico. En ella intentaré explorar el bienestar como un concepto y un conjunto de prácticas sociomateriales sometidos en la historia Euro-Americana reciente a numerosas crisis: en un sentido que incluye las derivadas de medidas de austeridad o de los modos de economización neoliberal, pero que quisiera también considerar otras muchas problematizaciones abiertas sobre los asuntos a dirimir o los sentidos de las diferentes transformaciones institucionales. Con la mirada puesta en algunos debates sobre el crítico estado desde su concepción del estado del bienestar español, así como en la historia de algunas de sus transformaciones recientes, quisiera sin embargo prestar especial atención a las formas en que diferentes radicalizaciones de colectivos y profesionales–vinculadas a espacios feministas y LGBTi, movimientos anti-psiquiátricos o relativos a la vida independiente y la diversidad funcional, conectados con un contexto más amplio de debates en el ámbito Euro-Americano–, han venido no sólo articulando ‘críticas’ a diferentes estados de ese bienestar (paternalista y/o asistencialista, expertocrático y/o familista, caritativo y/o institucionalizado, externalizado y/o autogestionado), sino también construyendo alternativas, arreglos o ecologías de soportes y apoyos que pondrían ‘en crisis’ ciertas maneras restringidas de entender el cuidado, ampliando los modos críticos en que pudiera entenderse el bienestar más allá de algunos de sus estados recientes.

Older People in a Connected Autonomy? Promises and Challenges in the Technologisation of Care

connected autonomy

New article published in the REIS (Revista Española de Investigaciones Sociológicas), nº 152 October – December 2015, pp. 105-120 published in English & Spanish

 

Older People in a Connected Autonomy? Promises and Challenges in the Technologisation of Care

(co-authored with Miquel Domènech)

Abstract

This paper offers an ethnographic interpretation of how in a changing context of family care different Spanish home telecare services provide older people with social links to prevent their isolation, granting them ‘connected autonomy’: the promotion of their autonomy and independent living through connectedness. To do so, services need to craft a network of ‘contacts’. Different versions of the term figuration are employed to describe the practical materializations of the forms of relatedness put in place by such services: what roles become available and explicitly supported; what other figurations of relatedness (e.g., kinship, friendship, neighbourliness) they come across; what happens when these different figurations of relatedness meet. In doing this, our aim is to allow space to reflect ethically on the practical relational promises and challenges of these forms of technologized care of older people.

Full textPDF in English

¿Personas mayores en autonomía conectada? Promesas y retos en la tecnologización del cuidado

(escrito en colaboración con Miquel Domènech)

Resumen 

Este artículo propone una interpretación etnográfica de cómo, en un contexto de cuidado familiar en transición, servicios de teleasistencia españoles buscan proveer a las personas mayores de vínculos sociales para prevenir su aislamiento, articulando una infraestructura de conexión y monitorización para promover lo que denominamos «autonomía conectada». Para funcionar estos servicios necesitan articular redes de «contactos». Empleamos diferentes acepciones del término figuración para entender los significados de la materialización práctica de diferentes formas relacionales por parte de estos servicios, prestando atención a: los roles que hacen disponibles; con qué otras figuraciones relacionales se encuentran y qué ocurre al encontrarse. A partir de esta descripción, abrimos un debate ético acerca de las promesas y retos relacionales que enfrentan los intentos por tecnologizar el cuidado de las personas mayores.

Texto completoPDF en castellano

Analysing hands-on-tech carework in telecare installations: Frictional Encounters with Gerontechnological Designs

PrendergastAging

Chapter recently published in the book AGING AND THE DIGITAL LIFE COURSE, edited by David Prendergast and Chiara Garattini, Volume 3 of Berghahn’s Life Course, Culture and Aging: Global Transformations Series [ISBN  978-1-78238-691-9 (June 2015)]

Analysing hands-on-tech carework in telecare installations: Frictional Encounters with Gerontechnological Designs

(Co-written with Daniel López)

Brief summary 

In the past twenty years gerontechnological technologies have been marketed as plug-and-play solutions to complex and costly care necessities. They are expected to reduce the cost of traditional forms of hands-oncare. Science and Technology Studies (STS) have contributed to discussing this idea (for an overall perspective, see Schillmeier and Domenech 2010) by pointing at important transformations in the care arrangements where these technologies are implemented. Instead of just ‘plug-and-play’ solutions, transformations are found in protagonists, their roles and functions, and more importantly in redefining care. This chapter seeks to add new nuances to the definition of care in these scenarios by paying attention to what we term ‘hands-on-tech care work’. This terminology refers to the practices, usually undertaken by technicians (installation, repair and maintenance), which hold together the silent infrastructures that are now considered to be suitable and sustainable forms of care work for ageing societies. Hands-on-tech care work is usually hidden from most of the discussions concerning new care technologies for older people. On the one hand this is because installation, repair and maintenance work on telecare devices is considered as a mere technical procedure, i.e. not considered to be part of care work. On the other hand it is because of the widespread view that if technologies are well designed, installing them is simply a matter of ‘plug-and-play’. However, if we look carefully into the installation process, these concepts are easily refuted. This is because these technologies need to be continually welcomed, tuned, adjusted, tweaked, personalized, updated and installed.

Full textPDF

The Radicalisation of Care: Practices, Politics & Infrastructures | 19 & 20 NOV 2014, Barcelona

Radicalisation of care

Daniel López, Israel Rodríguez Giralt and I have the honour of hosting the workshop “The radicalisation of care: Practices, Politics and Infrastructures” | #radicare
19 & 20 November 2014 | Barcelona, Open University of Catalonia

Installing Telecare, Installing Users: Felicity Conditions for the Instauration of Usership

Installations

New collective article published in Science, Technology & Human Values, 39(5): 694-719!!

Installing Telecare, Installing Users: Felicity Conditions for the Instauration of Usership

 (co-written with Daniel López, Celia Roberts & Miquel Domènech)

Abstract:
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

Acknowledgements

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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