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Accepted Paper:

Digital affective communication: LINE stickers and care at a distance in Japan  

Author:

Laura Haapio-Kirk (University College London (UCL))

Paper short abstract:

This paper argues that visual communication through the smartphone application LINE is facilitating affective informal care between children and their elderly parents. Based on ethnographic research on digital health and self-care practices among older people in Kyoto and Kochi, Japan.

Paper long abstract:

As older people increasingly adopt the smartphone in Japan, digital visual communication through LINE stickers is facilitating affective informal care between children and their elderly parents. This paper draws on long-term (Feb 2018 - June 2019) ethnographic research on everyday digital health and self-care practices among older people in Kyoto and Kochi, Japan. With families living dispersed across Japan, sending messages and photos via social media, including the messaging application LINE, has become an important part of kin relations and has created a digital affective space. Forms of care at a distance are practiced through the exchange of messages, photos, emojis and stickers (illustrated messages), and also through video calling, allowing people to demonstrate care and convey feelings while maintaining privacy and reducing burden. Aided by participatory drawing elicitation techniques, the research on which this paper is based examined the affective nature of care at a distance through visual methods. Previous work on affectivity, technology, and care in Japan has focused on the possibilities of robots which are designed to elicit a caring and therefore therapeutic response in the user because of their outward appearance and tactility, such as Pepper (White 2018), or Paro the seal (Dumouchel 2017). Meanwhile the capacity for technologies to convey affect between users, in conjunction with their imaginations, has been less explored. Understanding caring in the digital age is critical given the challenges for care posed by Japan's ageing population, and Japan's turn towards technology to cope with a decreasing health and care workforce.

Panel P060
Illuminating Futures of the Life Course through Visual and Digital Media [Age and Generations Network]