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.

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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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