Messy realities: the secret life of technology
Gemma Hughes (University of Oxford)
Sara Shaw (University of Oxford)
Caitlin Pilbeam (University of Oxford)
Pitt Rivers Museum Main Gallery
Start time:
19 September, 2018 at 9:00 (UTC+0)
Session slots:

Short abstract:

Join us in exploring the secret life of technologies in the Pitt Rivers Museum: from pendant alarms to amulets. We disrupt our ethnographic work with assisted living technologies to experiment with the juxtaposition of everyday objects with artefacts layered with complex cultural relevancies.

Long abstract:

Our research, situated within the health sciences, is concerned with the personal, organisational and political use of assisted living technologies (ALTs). Our study of ALTs ranges from everyday use of ordinary devices like pendant alarms to experimental use of tracking devices in dementia. Join us at the Pitt Rivers Museum as we elaborate on methods used to engage members of the public in our research; handling objects from contemporary healthcare with artefacts from the museum collections. Help us test our hypothesis that embodied, sensory explorations of these technologies will stimulate theoretically informed discussions.

We have found a 'secret' life of technologies; devices that are variously abandoned, adopted and remade in a bricolage of material and social networks in our ethnographic explorations of living well with chronic conditions. We are curious about the contrast between the messy realities of technology-in-use and the contemporary discourses of health technology that reach towards a future tech-utopia. Our explorations of how ALTs transform, and are transformed by, the shrinking physical and social worlds we have encountered in our fieldwork sit uneasily with the disembodied imaginary of the health tech sector, which produces these technologies.

These differences have inspired us to disrupt our ethnographic endeavours, disentangling technologies from their place-in-use and taking them into the provocative space of the museum. Here, we juxtapose everyday objects with artefacts layered with complex cultural relevancies. Join us in experimenting with methods for stimulating new discussions about ALTs in contemporary healthcare.

This lab is limited to 20 participants, email Gemma (address above) to register your place.