caring infrastructures ethics ethics, politics and economy of care more-than-human objects of care and care practices politics and economy of care publications techniques & ways of doing urban and personal devices

Care in Trouble: Ecologies of Support from Below and Beyond

In 2018-2019, my colleague Vincent Duclos and I worked on different versions of an essay that was given green light by the Medical Anthropology Quarterly last August and has now been included in the 34(2) issue. It was a hard process, but also a wonderful occasion to learn from the inspiring work of many colleagues and a joyful opportunity to experiment together with a conceptual writing repertoire.

Titled “Care in Trouble: Ecologies of Support from Below and Beyond” the article wishes to map out how care has proliferated as an analytical and technical term aimed at capturing a vast array of practices, conditions, and sentiments. As we argue in our exploratory orienting essay–rather than a deep dive ethnography–care seems to have also expanded to many other reproductive domains of life, where it has been mobilized as a conceptual lens that affords privileged access to the human condition.

This essay is premised on the conviction that, in spite of and perhaps also because of its rising popularity, the analytics of care is in trouble. Drawing inspiration from STS, “new materialist” work, and the writings in black, Indigenous, anticolonial, feminist, and crip studies, we suggest that discussions within anthropology might benefit from opening care from both “below” and “beyond” in what we are calling “ecologies of support.”

Ecologies of support are not to be mistaken for all-encompassing environments. Their protective effects more often than not are discontinuous and unevenly distributed. Thinking about ecologies of support entails placing a new focus on how different kinds of bodies are differentially supported, cared for, and capable of influencing their own conditions of support. Because spaces of care and safety can also easily morph into forms of containment and exclusion, what is needed are more accurate cartographies of the many intersections and frictions between the enveloping and the diverging, the protecting and the containing, the enduring and the engendering, as they play out in care practices.

Our proposal is for anthropology to not simply seek to represent or bear witness to these practices, but also to reinvigorate care by experimenting with modes of inquiry and intervention that operate along new axes of movement and new relational possibilities—a dynamic ecosystem if you will.


We would be happy and eager to learn from your comments and reactions to it, if you had any.

Picture CC BY 2006 Vladimer Shioshvili


Over the last decades, care has proliferated as a notion aimed at capturing a vast array of practices, conditions, and sentiments. In this article, we argue that the analytics of care may benefit from being troubled, as it too often reduces the reproduction of life to matters of palliation and repair, fueling a politics of nationalism and identitarianism. Picking up the threads of insight from STS, “new materialisms,” and postcolonial feminist and indigenous scholarship, we discuss care from “below” and “beyond,” thus exposing tensions between the enveloping and the diverging, the enduring and the engendering, that play out in care practices. We propose “ecologies of support” as an analytic that attends to how humans are grounded in, traversed by, and undermined by more‐than‐human and often opaque, speculative, subterranean elements. Our proposal is for anthropology to not simply map life‐sustaining ecologies, but to experimentally engage with troubling modes of inquiry and intervention.

Published as Duclos, V., & Criado, T. S. (2020). Care in Trouble: Ecologies of Support from Below and Beyond. Medical Anthropology Quarterly 34(2), 153–173 | PDF

caring infrastructures concepts ethics ethics, politics and economy of care maintenance and repair objects of care and care practices open sourcing participatory & collaborative design of care infrastructures politics and economy of care resources urban and personal devices

How to care for the opening of care infrastructures?

[EN] How to care for the opening of care infrastructures?

(Versión en castellano más abajo)

The mess we’re in has accentuated two recurring concerns, perhaps with newer nuances: (1) the importance of tinkering and opening up care infrastructures and equipment; (2) the relevance of experimenting with their documentation (precisely in the distance of a remote confinement)

(1) Here we are again in an austerity crisis, again care as the main mode of response, and yet again in need of proprietary equipment, closed down by patents and strict rules of circulation (where the health expertocracy & free market meet). But there are also mismatches…

The previous crisis brought out a wealth of forms of tinkering and inventiveness, DIY hacks and 3D printed contraptions in all kinds of initiatives. That crisis deeply impacted architecture and design, but health systems protected themselves from what was though to be a dangerous experiment …

Health struggles revolved around supporting public infrastructures, but beyond a discussion around generic drugs, the ‘question concerning technology’ did not seem to pop up much, even though its importance was highlighted (e.g. open orthopedics and technical aids)

The urban experimentation of many DIY urbanism, collective architecture and handmade urbanism… made emerge a context to explore other ways of opening up the city’s infrastructures and their rights. All of this has been sadly crumbling: too much personal – and too little institutional – an effort

Now a new techno-political field seems to emerge, even more closed than the previous one: Will this situation of health infrastructural collapse allow for an experimentation with seizing the means of care, opening up an inquiry on how this might be supported by public infrastructures? Time will tell

(2) Now, as it happened, those findings and practical solutions need to be traced and circulated, knowledge of an expert and experiential kind sprout and turn ideas that come and go. We document to share, but also not to forget…

And, also, a great variety of digital platforms erupt, wishing to centralise the archiving of such experiences, their tagging and categorization: websites, telegram channels, but also Twitter as an archive of a tinkering society in need of auto-inscribing to endure, when not just to be…

With a big difference: ten years ago, online presence was treated as a mere support, an aid, main-staging embodied togetherness. However, in the distance of a remote confinement digital documentation takes on a different – and greater – relevance

Many of the insurgent archives documenting the critical experiences of years ago have now disappeared: we didn’t have the time, the will, the conditions to work to maintain and care for all of them – some have survived, many thanks to the use of commercial platforms whose servers are still intact

Will we forget and obliterate what we have learned, the traces of the new that emerge, the timeless solutions that always reemerge, the dramas of the moment? Sure, we need to forget in order to go on, but digital records are deeply fragile. Will we let the same thing happen to us again? What to do?

P.S. This thread is a testimony of many conversations in the last years with @entornoalasilla @adolfoestalella @acorsin @cboserman @jararocha @blancallen @birrabel @dlopezgom @ CareNet_IN3 @zuloark @Makeatuvida @Alephvoid @autofabricantes @ alafuente @ janinakehr @SaraLF @crinamoreno

P.S.2. But also a reflection after witnessing what @frenalacurva @ItaliaCovid19 @CovidAidUK @nwspk are making emerge, together with the great number of health practitioners and makers documenting their inventiveness – here on Twitter, for instance – around the globe


Slightly amended version of a thread published on Twitter

[ES] ¿Cómo cuidar de la apertura de las infraestructuras del cuidado?

Este momento delirante ha acentuado dos preocupaciones recurrentes, con nuevos matices: (1) la importancia del cacharreo o la apertura de infraestructuras y equipamientos del cuidado; (2) la experimentación con su documentación (en la distancia de un confinamiento a distancia)

(1) De nuevo una crisis por austeridad, de nuevo la centralidad del cuidado como respuesta, de nuevo la necesidad de equipamientos cerrados por patentes y reglas estrictas de circulación (donde cruzan la expertocracia sanitaria y el libre mercado). Pero con algunas diferencias…

La anterior crisis sacó la inventiva cacharrera, un despliegue de ñapas, makeos, impresión 3D e iniciativas do-it-yourself para todo tipo de actividades. Esa crisis afectó de lleno a arquitectura y diseño, pero el mundo de la salud se protegió: era una experimentación peligrosa…

La lucha de la salud se centró en torno a su sostenimiento público, pero más allá de la discusión sobre los medicamentos genéricos, la pregunta por la tecnología no parecía abrirse, aun cuando se planteó su importancia con fuerza (e.g. ortopedias y ayudas técnicas abiertas)

La experimentación urbana de lugares como Can Batlló o el Campo de Cebada, el handmade urbanism… generaron un contexto para explorar otros modos de hacer ciudad con infraestructuras abiertas. Todo eso ha ido cayendo tristemente en desgracia: mucho esfuerzo y poca institución

Ahora se abre un nuevo campo tecno-político, todavía más clausurado que el anterior: ¿Permitirá esta situación de colapso sanitario abrir a indagación y sostenimiento con infraestructuras públicas la experimentación con la reapropiación de los medios del cuidado? El tiempo dirá

(2) Ahora, como entonces, eso hallazgos y soluciones prácticas necesitan abrirse y circular, saberes y conocimientos experienciales que brotan y se convierten en ideas que vienen y van. Se documenta para compartir, pero también para no olvidar

Y, de nuevo, comienza la panoplia de plataformas digitales para su archivado centralizado, su etiquetado y categorización: webs, canales de telegram, pero también Twitter como archivo de una sociedad cacharrera que busca auto-inscribirse para subsistir, cuando no existir…

Con una gran diferencia: hace diez años, lo online era un apoyo o soporte, quedando el vínculo corpóreo en una centralidad; en la distancia de un confinamiento a distancia, sin embargo, esa documentación digital cobra una importancia nuclear

Desaparecieron muchos de esos archivos insurgentes de la experiencia crítica de hace años: no les pudimos meter ganas, esfuerzo, manutención y cuidado a todos ellos – algunos han subsistido, muchos gracias al uso de plataformas blog cuyos servidores siguen en activo

¿Olvidaremos y haremos caer en el olvido todo lo aprendido, los trazos de lo nuevo que emerge, las soluciones atemporales, los dramas del momento? Cierto, necesitamos olvidar para vivir, pero el registro digital es frágil ¿Dejaremos que nos pase lo mismo otra vez? ¿Qué hacer?

PD. Aquí acordándome mucho de cientos de conversaciones con @entornoalasilla @adolfoestalella @acorsin @cboserman @jararocha @blancallen @birrabel @dlopezgom @CareNet_IN3 @zuloark @Makeatuvida @Alephvoid @autofabricantes @alafuente@janinakehr @SaraLF @crinamoreno

PD2. Pero también pensando en todo lo que están abriendo @frenalacurva @ItaliaCovid19 @CovidAidUK @nwspk y la cantidad de profesionales del mundo sanitario documentando su inventiva

PD3. Y también muchas de las conversaciones recientes con @janinakehr @SaraLF @crinamoreno – fuente de tantas reflexiones interesantes

Adaptación de un hilo publicado originalmente en Twitter

Picture credits: Patent spec of Le Prieur regulator (1946-47) (Wikimedia Commons)

collectives ethics events experimental collaborations more-than-human objects of care and care practices

The world/s at the ends of the city – Institutskolloquium, IfEE, summer semester 2019

It is our great pleasure to invite you all to the upcoming summer semester 2019 edition of the Institut für Europäische Ethnology’s (Humboldt-University of Berlin) Institutskolloquium (our departmental lecture series), titled:

The world/s at the ends of the city

Explorations in urban and environmental anthropology

These public lecture series will take place each Tuesday 2-4pm (except otherwise stated, *) from April 9, 2019 until July 2, 2019 in the Room 0007 at Hausvogteiplatz 5-7 10117 Berlin. 

We would be really grateful if you could share it with anyone interested.

If you happen to be in Berlin any of those dates, don’t hesitate to come!

Organised by Ignacio Farías, Tomás Criado & Jörg Niewöhner


What if the city was not a world in itself, but an interface to multiple, overlapping, often invisible and conflicting worldings? That is, more or less powerful, more or less precarious ways of composing urban ecologies that sustain–and impede–forms of life. But also, what if those worldings were the end of the city as we have come to know it to date? This departmental lecture series wishes to explore the world/s at the ends of the city, giving this term a twofold sense:

• Firstly, the series pays attention to nonhuman worldly forces both shaping and challenging urban cohabitation. The challenges these forces bring with them lead us to explore the potential shape of an urban cosmopolitics in the Anthropocene. We are thus interested in understanding how organic and inorganic, geological, chemical and biological forces challenge our understanding of the city and the modes of operating in it.
• Secondly, we want to zoom into critical and experimental ecologies of practices un-doing and re-doing the city at the edges of habitability. That is, social movements but also movements or, rather, displacements of the social be they reclaiming infrastructures, apprehending or appropriating urban ecologies. We aim to explore what it could mean to rethink urbanism, in its constructive and moral/citizenship dimensions, from different kinds of engagements of human and nonhuman others. We aim to make visible arts of survival, inquiry, and design that unfold in the ruins of the city as a modern project of social integration through infrastructural connection.

The departmental lecture series ‘the world/s at the ends of the city’ will thus shed light onto what an urban politics might involve in the face of disruptive irruptions of both nonhuman and unruly forces through the boundaries, thresholds and interstices of urban worlds: that is, the spaces where what we call ‘the city’ not topographically, but mainly ontologically, ends. Exploring these ends is critical, especially considering that while in policy worlds cities are increasingly targeted as a key site to achieve a sustainable future, many other critical voices suggest we should dismiss the city as a useful analytical and political category. In this context, it seems crucial to articulate the discussion about worldly forces at the ends of the city with the question of the ends (telos) of our inquiries and interventions in urban worlds. At stake are not just the conceptual apparatuses to decenter the city, but most prominently the necessary re-articulation of the epistemic politics of an urban and environmental anthropology.

Three interrelated avenues of disciplinary reflection might shape our conversation: How to follow and immerse ourselves in the life of urban biomes, bees, microclimates, tsunamis, so that we can represent and give a voice to such urban actors? How to learn from the methods invented by different urban ecologies of practices and collectives to know, represent, intervene and engage with unknown worldly forces? How to collaborate with scientists and artists in the production of in/commensurable accounts of the world/s at the end of the city?


9. April | NaturenKulturen: Denkräume und Werkzeuge für neue politische Ökologien – Book Launch
Michi Knecht / Katrin Amelang (Uni Bremen). Commented by Tahani Nadim (MfN/HU Berlin)

16. April | Growing city surfaces: anthropology and the urban soil sciences
Germain Meulemans (EHESS, Paris)

23. April | The air as an end of the city?
Nerea Calvillo (CIM, Warwick)

30. April | Beyond Concrete: Imagination, Material Futures and Construction in Times of Ecological Crisis
Rachel Harkness (University of Edinburgh)

7. Mai | Integrating edible city solutions for socially resilient and sustainably productive cities
Ina Säumel (IRI THESys, HU Berlin)

14. Mai | Quer-denken – A cosmo-politics of urbanthropocene?
Anders Blok (University of Copenhagen) / Regina Römhild (HU Berlin) / Jörg Niewöhner (HU Berlin)

21. Mai | Ruderal City
Bettina Stoetzer (MIT)

28. Mai* | Violence and vigilance: on militarized sentience and phantasms of terror in Paris, France [*Sondertermin: 6-8pm c.t.]
Robert Desjarlais (Sarah Lawrence, NY)

4. Juni | Autonomia ethnographica: liberal designs, designs for liberation, and the liberation of design
Alberto Corsín Jiménez (CSIC, Madrid)

11. Juni | Low Tide: Submerged Humanism in a Colombian Port-City
Austin Zeiderman (LSE)

18. Juni | Re-imagining detoxification beyond the molecular register
Nick Shapiro (UCLA)

25. Juni | Quer-denken – Remaking the city: How to care?
Tomás Criado / Martina Klausner / Beate Binder (HU Berlin)

2. Juli* | Für eine Anthropologie des Urbanismus (inaugural lecture/Antrittsvorlesung) [*Sondertermin: 6-8pm c.t. am IfEE, Raum 408]
Ignacio Farías (HU Berlin)

For more information, please follow the events at IfEE’s FB channel

accessibility caring infrastructures collectives ethics functional diversity & disability rights independent-living objects of care and care practices open sourcing participatory & collaborative design of care infrastructures personal autonomy politics and economy of care publications techniques & ways of doing urban and personal devices

Care in the (critical) making: Open prototyping, or the radicalisation of independent-living politics


New article forthcoming in Alter – European Journal of Disability research, Revue européenne de recherche sur le handicap 10 (2016), pp. 24-39 (Special issue on Care & Disability, edited by E. Fillion, M. Winance, A. Damamme).

Care in the (critical) making: Open prototyping, or the radicalisation of independent-living politics

Written in collaboration with Israel Rodríguez Giralt & Arianna Mencaroni


In this paper we reflect empirically on some collective attempts at intervening the ways in which care for and by disabled people is being devised and carried out in Spain in austerity times. We highlight the novelties and challenges of the way in which these projects seek to tackle the current crisis of care through different forms of self-fabrication of ‘open’ and ‘low cost’ technical aids. We analyse them as forms of ‘critical making’ expanding the repertoire of independent-living and disabled people’s rights politics to the experimentation with technological production. Through the deployment of an empirical example of the prototyping process by the Barcelona-based activist design collective En torno a la silla we show how open prototyping constitutes a major challenge for the radicalisation of the independent-living movement’s precepts of control and choice, displaying the matter of care arrangements and making available its transformation.
Care; arrangements; independent living; critical making; prototypes


This research is part of an ongoing and very interesting discussion on careful design practices with our En torno a la silla mates (Alida Díaz, Antonio Centeno, Marga Alonso, Núria Gómez, Rai Vilatovà & Xavi Duacastilla) as well as the very nice people we have learnt to think with in the construction of its interactive documentary. To name but a few: Alma Orozco, Joaquim Fonoll, Mario Toboso, Carlos ‘Txarlie’ Tomás, Montse García and the Functional Diversity Commission at Acampada Sol. These ideas have also been extremely well taken care of and re-elaborated in the course of discussions and passionate politico-ethnographical reflections on design and care with Adolfo Estalella, Asun Pie, Blanca Callén, Carla Boserman, Daniel López, Jara Rocha, Marcos Cereceda, Manuel Tironi & Miriam Arenas.


This work was supported by the Spanish National R&D Programme 2012-2014, Ministry of Economy and Competitiveness under the research project: Expertise, Democracy and Social Mobilisation (EXPDEM): The Political Action of Groups Concerned with the Promotion of Independent-Living in Spain(CSO2011-29749-C02-02); and the Alliance 4 Universities postdoctoral grant for Tomás Sánchez Criado’s individual project A study of participatory and collaborative design experiences of care and independent-living technologies(ExPart, Oct. 2012- Oct. 2014).


caring infrastructures ethics ethics, politics and economy of care maintenance and repair objects of care and care practices publications techniques & ways of doing

Vulnerability Tests. Matters of “Care for Matter” in E-waste Practices

"Waste-picker in the squatted warehouse in Barcelona extracting some copper pieces welded in a motherboard" CC BY Blanca Callén

Blanca Callén and I collaborate with an article in a special issue of  Tecnoscienza we are particularly happy to take part in: a whole exploration on ‘Maintenance & Repair in Science and Technology Studies‘ edited by our colleagues Jérôme Denis, Alessandro Mongili & David Pontille (thank you for the editorial work!).

Our text (see below for more information) is an exploration on “mending cultures” and their modes of “care for matter” understood from the “vulnerability tests” there being mobilised. It derives from a presentation in 2013’s CRESC conference, where we attempted to think comparatively on our projects on DIY technical aids and e-waste. Despite this comparison is something we might work a bit further in future publications, I’d like to thank once more Blanca for her generosity in allowing me to “think with” the materials of her very interesting project “Scrapping Politics

Vulnerability Tests. Matters of “Care for Matter” in E-waste Practices

Abstract: In this paper we will think ethnographically about how material vulnerability is dealt with and conceived of in the practice of informal menders. We explore different practices to “care for matter”, mobilized in dealing with obsolete computers, categorized as electronic waste, and will analyse the epistemic repertoires to acknowledge and intervene in such computers vulnerabilities. In dialogue with STS and Repair and Maintenance Studies literature, we will move from vulnerability as an ontological quality of the world to the enacted properties and epistemic repertoires emerging from concrete “tests”, through which we might learn how vulnerability matters. In particular, we pay attention to three specific vulnerability tests performed by these informal menders, underpinning particular distributions of labour as well as concrete enactments of vulnerability, and how to make it matter. Namely, sensing matter: manipulative practices of electronic waste whereby vulnerability is enacted as a property of materials; setting up informal experiments: informal practices of trial and error whereby vulnerability appears as a result of dis/functioning technical systems; and intervening in obsolescence: whereby sociomaterial orders regulate how material vulnerabilities are redistributed and put to the test.

Keywords: maintenance & repair; matters of care; vulnerability; test; electronic waste.

Published in Tecnoscienza: Italian Journal of Science and Technology Studies 6 (2) pp. 17-40 | PDF

Image credits ‘Waste-picker in the squatted warehouse in Barcelona extracting some copper pieces welded in a motherboard’ CC BY Blanca Callén

ethics ethics, politics and economy of care older people personal autonomy publications sociality & isolation telecare

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)


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)


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

domotics & AAL ethics open sourcing participatory & collaborative design of care infrastructures smart city techniques & ways of doing urban and personal devices

Of Sensors and Sensitivities. Towards a Cosmopolitics of ‘Smart Cities’?



Together with Martin Tironi we have written this review essay on the smart city, published in the latest number of Tecnoscienza.

Of Sensors and Sensitivities. Towards a Cosmopolitics of “Smart Cities”?

This essay reviews diverse strands of empirical and theoretical work in different urban studies areas (urban planning, urban ethnography, urban geography, and STS) reflecting on the manifold ways in which the smart city project is being “opened up” for scrutiny through experimental projects developing digitally-mediated sensing practices of either a specific or broad kind: i.e., producing both devices formally devised for sensing specific parameters, and sensing devices –emerging from less specific digital technology arrangements– used to share experiences, show solutions or politicize different urban issues. In doing this, we seek to understand, from an STS standpoint, the different ways in which a broad range of works are analysing the development, intervention, maintenance, and opposition of these ideas. In the first section we focus on understanding the definitions, features and clashes that several of these corporate projects (mostly municipal in nature) have come across, deploying smart devices, such as sensors to produce an “algorithmic city”. In the second section we expand the meanings of “smartness,” focusing on grassroots appropriations of broader digital arrangements and politicizations of open source infrastructures to display other forms of urban sensitivities, contributing to the cosmopoliticization of the “smart city” project.
Full text: PDF
accessibility caring infrastructures ethics functional diversity & disability rights participatory & collaborative design of care infrastructures press releases resources technical aids techniques & ways of doing urban and personal devices

En torno a la silla’s special TV feature with English subs

En torno a la silla“, the collaborative design collective seeking to self-fabricate and self-manage the production of DIY and P2P technical aids for independent living in which I collaborate ethnographically since 2012, was featured in La2’s (Spanish National TV network) “La aventura del saber“, broadcasted originally on April 13th 2015. Now with English subtitles!

We speak of the collective “En torno a la silla”, composed by a heterogeneous group of people seeking to collaboratively fabricate taylor-made prototypes with functionally diverse people in order to experiment with personalized solutions seeking to meet the needs of each wheelchair user. All this to make a more accessible city. The live footage used in the broadcasting was shot by Arianna Mencaroni for the webdocumentary “Off catalogue”

I will be showing it tomorrow July 1st 2015 at the inauguration of TUM’s Munich Center for Technology in Society (where I will be working as Senior researcher within Ignacio Farías’s reseach group ‘Infrastructure & participation‘).

ethics experimental collaborations politics and economy of care publications techniques & ways of doing

Experimental collaborations: An invocation for the redistribution of social research


Positional paper published in Convergence: The International Journal of Research into New Media Technologiespart of the research programme #xcol – Experimental collaborations

Experimental collaborations: An invocation for the redistribution of social research

(co-written with Adolfo Estalella)

Abstract: This positional paper argues in favour of a research program for the exploration of experimental collaborations, a methodological approach whose epistemic engagement with the empirical work is experimental and whose relational mode is collaborative. Digital technologies have effected a process of redistribution of social science research by which non-experts and lay people are increasingly using and developing tools for the production of sociological knowledge. Under these circumstances we argue that such a redistribution of social science research is an opportunity to renew the epistemic practices of social scientists. With the proposal of experimental collaborations we invoke a twofold displacement for social research: From a merely observational to an experimental mode or research; and from individualistic or merely engaged conceptions of research to a collective exploration of problems yet unknown.

Keywords: experimental collaborations, redistribution of methods, experimentation, collaboration, co-production of science, hybrid institutions, devices, methods, methodology, Internet


[scribd id=255754673 key=key-B80jCeJpXUDbGgZo8YCo mode=scroll]

caring infrastructures ethics ethics, politics and economy of care maintenance and repair objects of care and care practices politics and economy of care research projects techniques & ways of doing urban and personal devices

Política material del cuidado


Una mirada antropológica a la política material del cuidado

Desde 2008, como parte de un trabajo colectivo derivado de diferentes proyectos comencé a recopilar información y materiales en un blog para uso del grupo de investigación en el que colaboraba, que casi convertí en un repositorio de uso personal donde colgaba el material web que me voy encontrando, así como la información semanal que me llega con un ‘tracker’ de noticias. Esto es, un archivo un poco impresionista de cosas que consideraba relevantes para mi trabajo de tesis (centrada en la teleasistencia para personas mayores).

Sin embargo, en mitad del proceso de escritura de mi tesis, y como parte de su consecución, me pregunté ¿y si pusiera todos estos materiales a disposición de los demás, abriendo un espacio para el debate, para la reflexión y encuentro de los ‘tecnoCUIDADanOS‘? De ahí nació la nueva versión de este blog…

¿Por qué ‘tecnoCUIDADanOS’?

Sé que la grafía es horrible y que el concepto suena  abstruso, pero no es menos extraña la idea a la que responde y que, me gustaría defender, pudiera ser de enorme interés.

Pienso que el cuidado está en transición desde hace unas décadas. Y, particularmente se encuentra en un proceso de cambio brutal, o mejor dicho de creciente y constante ‘traducción‘, salpicado cada vez más por la introducción de muy diferentes tecnologías (desde lo que se conoce en el medio como ‘ayudas técnicas’ -bastones, andadores, sillas de ruedas, audífonos, etc.- hasta formas cambiantes de domótica y el diseño accesible/universal, tecnologías de información diversas -teléfonos, móviles, portales web, redes sociales, etc.-, o proyectos de robótica).

Sistemas tecnológicos, dispositivos, aparatos y cacharros de la más diversa índole a los que se destinan ingentes cantidades de dinero público/privado y cuya promoción viene siempre acompañada de grandes loas en las que estas tecnologías aparecen como los heraldos de un cambio en los servicios y prácticas del cuidado: contienen, o eso se dice, promesas de liberación y de transformación del cuidado, o al menos de alivio de parte de sus cargas y problemas para las personas cuidadoras y para quienes reciben el cuidado. Unas tecnologías que, eso se dice, permitirían responder con mayor eficacia a los retos del cuidado ante los imperativos que plantean el cambio demográfico y las transformaciones en la distribución sexual de las tareas de cuidado ‘causadas’ por la incorporación de la mujer a la ‘vida activa’… (aunque la formulación no puede ser más problemática, véase aquí).

Sin embargo, hablamos poco de esto: de la vida cotidiana con todos estos aparatos que han venido poblando y colonizando el mundo cotidiano de muchas personas (de formas crecientes) bajo la égida de un nuevo futuro de ‘mejora de la calidad de vida’ para aquellas personas con situaciones ‘crónicas’. Y, desde luego, muchas de las personas que acaban usando o empleando estas tecnologías no han sido partícipes de su diseño, ni tienen un modo específico de hablar de las mismas. No hay un lenguaje para hablar del ‘tecnocuidado’ más allá de los términos que ponen en nuestra boca los ingenieros, desarrolladores y proveedores de estos servicios. Por no hablar de que en muchas ocasiones se trata de tecnologías propietarias, verdaderas cajas negras incrustadas en nuestras vidas a las que no podemos meterles mano, a riesgo de perder la garantía de los productos, estando los saberes para meterles mano muchas veces protegidos por el secreto industrial.

Servicios pensados para que los usemos como ‘meros receptores’, siendo nuestras necesidades perpetuamente pensadas por otrxs que saben más sobre nuestra vida que nosotrxs mismxs. En ese sentido, diferentes movimientos asociativos críticos con los modelos médico y social de la discapacidad vienen alertando desde hace años de situaciones de ‘doble discriminación’ o de n-ple discriminación por diferentes causas. Y entre ellas está también el modo en que se diseña, comercializa, repara y distribuyen los cacharros, que generan no pocos quebraderos de cabeza (véanse, a modo de ejemplo, los problemas que puede suscitar el diseño de sillas de ruedas y otros muchos aparatos o ‘ayudas técnicas’, como se las llama en el argot, por no hablar de los problemas planteados sobre estos servicios por parte de diferentes activistas).

Pero en la idea hay algo más: abrirnos a la idea de pensarnos como ‘tecnoCUIDADanOS’ es pensar qué política del cuidado queremos y qué formas técnicas/tecnológicas, qué formatos de organización y colectivización del cuidado priorizamos y por qué. La intención es que estos materiales, debates y reflexiones pudieran quizá ayudar a abrir ese espacio de debate a partir de una mirada modesta sobre los cuidados tecnológicos. Pero una mirada atenta a las maneras en que distintas personas diseñan, promocionan, implementan o usan tecnologías para el cuidado de otras o de sí mismas.

Prestar atención a esto quizá nos permita re-pensar qué es la ciudadanía: no ya sólo como una serie de derechos o garantías que pueden reclamar personas que habitan en ciertos contextos institucionales, ampliamente intervenidos por lógicas de gobierno liberal (de entre los cuales al menos hasta ahora podríamos citar servicios de cuidado altamente mediados por tecnologías, subsidiados/financiados total o parcialmente por medio de administraciones públicas, gestionados de forma crecientemente externalizada y cuyo acceso suele venir, cada vez más, mediado por el poder adquisitivo o la renta), sino como algo que pudiera ser re-pensado a través y desde las prácticas de cuidado y sus infraestructuras de servicios/tecnologías. Esto es, desde lo que nos proponen, permiten, impiden y ocultan prácticamente; desde el trabajo de cacharreo que suponen e implican y que, comúnmente, queda doblemente invisibilizado:

“During the twentieth century it was commonly argued that care was other to technology. Care had to do with warmth and love while technology, by contrast, was cold and irrational. Care was nourishing, technology was instrumental. Care overflowed and was impossible to calculate, technology was effective and efficient. Care was a gift, technology made interventions. […] This book sings another song. If we insist on the specificities of caring practices it is on different terms. Rather than furthering purifications, the authors in this book insist on the irreducibility of mixtures. Caring pratices, to start here, include technologies […] If they happen to be helpful then they are all welcome. At the same time, engaging in care is not an innate human capacity or something everyone learns early on by imitating their mother […] Technologies, in their turn, are not as shiny, smooth and instrumental as they may be designed to look. Neither are they either straightforwardly effective on the one hand, or abject failures on the other. Instead they tend to have a variety of effects Some of these are predictable, while others are surprising. Technologies, what is more, do not work or fail in and on themselves. Rather, they depend on care work.

On people willing to adapt their tools to a specific situation while adapting the situation to the tools, on and on, endlessly tinkering” (Mol, Moser & Pols, 2010: pp. 14-15)

– Mol, A., Moser, I., & Pols, J. (2010). Care: putting practice into theory. In A. Mol, I. Moser & J. Pols (Eds.), Care in Practice. On Tinkering in Clinics, Homes and Farms (pp. 7-25). Bielefeld: Transcript.

Una de las preguntas que subyace a esta indagación, por tanto, es: ¿cómo podemos convertirnos, pasar de sujetos cuidados por la tecnología a ser ‘tecnocidanos‘ y qué pudiera implicar esto?

Tecnocidadanos es un neologismo que se forma de la hibridación entre tecnociencia y ciudadanos. Los tecnocidanos son todos esos ciudadanos expertos que proliferan en esta era tecnocientífica. No es sencillo conceptualizarlos, aunque sea muy fácil visualizarlos. Son tecnocidanos, entre otros, los miles de hackers que dominan las TIC (trabajando a favor del software libre y el copyleft), como también todos los ciudadanos cuyas preocupaciones medioambientalistas o sanitarias les han conducido hasta la lectura y discusión competente de temas especializados y hasta muy recientemente reservados al mundo académico. También tenemos otras lecciones que aprender de los movimientos antinucleares de la década de los 60 o de los afectados por el SIDA en los 80. En ambos casos, surgieron ciudadanos que no aceptaron dejar en manos de los expertos asuntos de tanta trascendencia política y social. Aparecieron colectivos que lograron apropiarse del lenguaje técnico y expresar sus inquietudes en unos términos que no pudieran ser ignorados por los propios ingenieros o médicos. Y así es como algunos ciudadanos trataron de compatibilizar la necesidad del rigor con la voluntad de ser solidarios. Mucho se discute acerca de si estas iniciativas son el germen de un nuevo contrato social, basado en ideales comunitaristas, filantrópicos, descentralizados, horizontales, abiertos, como los únicos valores capaces de restaurar en toda su amplitud las nociones de bien común, libre acceso al conocimiento, y gestión coparticipativa en los proyectos.”

–  Antonio Lafuente (2012), “Tecnociudadanía y procomún III. Autoridad expandida

Y, a partir de aquí, quizá podamos articular diferentes versiones de lo que algunos colectivos denominan ‘cUIdadanía‘, una transformación en la idea de ciudadanía a partir del cuidado, por medio de la que se propone:


– Los hombres tomen su parte de responsabilidad y dejen por fin de ser beneficiarios privilegiados de este trabajo y pasen a ser parte activa de este trabajo necesario.

– No seamos nosotras las que nos adaptemos a las exigencias del mercado capitalista conciliando dobles o múltiples jornadas y sin derechos ni garantías sociales y laborales mínimas.

– Debe ser la sociedad en su conjunto (instituciones, empresas, Estado) la que se organice teniendo en cuenta las necesidades y exigencias de la vida, esto es, del cuidado.

Por eso hablamos de crear nuevos derechos de la sociedad del cuidado, DERECHOS DE CUIDADANÍA, para una sociedad que pone el cuidado en el centro y se organiza en función de estas necesidades vitales.

– Agencia de asuntos precarios (2007), “Manifiesto del 8 de marzo de 2007

Espero, por tanto, que este pueda ser un espacio para articular un lenguaje sobre los ‘CUIDADOS’, ‘tecno’, de ‘cUIdadanxs’. Esto es, un espacio para pensar en cómo convertirnos en ‘tecnoCUIDADanOS’, abriendo el debate sobre las diferentes versiones e interpretaciones que pudiéramos darle al imperativo ético que cobija: ‘tecnoCUIDAD’ / ‘tecnoCUIDA…OS’.

Por el momento, todo lo que hay es una apertura personal de la cuestión, una propuesta de materiales y reflexiones derivada de mis proyectos y mis ideas. Pero me gustaría abrir este espacio como un híbrido: museo, archivo y foro de encuentro sobre cualquier forma de cuidado, con cualquier técnica o tecnología.

¿Podrá convertirse este blog en un espacio abierto a diferentes formatos de interrogar qué es eso de la ‘tecnoCUIDAdanía’?