Accepted Paper:

Sociomaterial entanglements in the development of active and assisted technologies  


Cordula Endter (German Centre for Gerontology)

Paper short abstract:

Age(ing) is reconfigured by intelligent technologies and their use in the lives of older people. What concepts, policies and imaginations motivate the funding and development of AAL and how do they materialize in the technology and its usage I will discuss on the basis of my ethnographic research.

Paper long abstract:

Smart technologies incorporate an attractive promise: they guarantee the maintenance of an independent life even under the conditions of age-related limitations. At the same time, they claim to be able to cope with the increasing need for care due to demographic change. The development of AAL technologies shows, however, that this promise is deceptive: technology development is complex, lengthy and cost-intensive; prototypes are prone to errors, fail to meet market requirements and, despite user-centred approaches, often do not meet users' wishes. Nevertheless, the politics still insists on the funding of these technologies and furthermore focuses on robots and artificial intelligence to cover future care needs. How can this paradoxical situation be understood? In my ethnographic research on AAL, I argue that the development of AAL technologies and their application by users is the result of a complex practice of a multitude of different actors. In addition to (computer) scientists, designers, older users, their families and care-givers, this sociomaterial assemblage also includes funding programmes and infrastructures, political agendas and stakeholders as well as social discourses and ethical concerns. They all are involved to the development and inscribed in the materiality of AAL. I will discuss these sociomaterial entangelments of agents, materialities and practices giving an example from my ethnographic research on the development of an intelligent memory training platform. Here I will show how age and aging are co-constituted in the development of AAL and how the technical configuration of age-specific technologies reconfigures age and aging socially, culturally and politically.

Panel Age02
Practices and materialisations of active ageing