(E05)
Assembly, silence and dissent in the design and use of gerontechnologies
Location Marcus Merriman Lecture Theatre (Bowland North)
Date and Start Time 26 Jul, 2018 at 11:00
Sessions 2

Convenors

  • Louis Neven (Avans University of Applied Sciences) email
  • Daniel Lopez Gomez (Universitat Oberta de Catalunya) email
  • Alexander Peine (Utrecht University) email

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Short abstract

This panel brings together contributions at the intersection of STS, social gerontology and gerontechnology with the aim of discussing the assemblages, silencing and dissent which is part and parcel of the design and use of gerontechnologies.

Long abstract

Recently there have been large investments by technology companies and governments in technologies which are aimed at older people. These investment are driven in part by the aim to increase the wellbeing of older people, but in large part they are also aimed at solving societal challenges associated with demographic ageing and at creating new economic activity in the era of the 'silver economy'. The rhetoric that accompanies these investments is one of 'triple win' (Neven & Peine 2017): societal challenges are solved, economic gains are made and older people also benefit for instance by facilitating ageing in place. However, critical studies at the intersection of STS and social gerontology have begun to show the impact of gerontechnologies on the lives of older people. They show that the promise of gerontechnology for older people needs to be nuanced as the introduction of gerontechnologies is often accompanied by a reduction of autonomy, invasion of privacy, unsolicited changes in care etc. So far, however, such insights have remained under-theorized and scattered across disciplines. This panel brings together contributions at the intersection of gerontology, gerontechnology and STS. The empirical focus will be on the broad scope of assemblages, power and silencing which occur in design and the disassemblages, creativity and dissent which occurs in practice, but also the ways in which older people cannot escape from this. From this empirical base we aim to facilitate a discussion at a theoretical or conceptual level on the intersection of STS, social/cultural gerontology and gerontechnology.

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.

Papers

Wag the dog - how robotics configures care situations

Author: Andreas Bischof (Chemnitz University of Technology) email
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Short abstract

The paper reconstructs how practices of care and nursing are configured by robotics. The findings show, that a high degree of institutionalization of care and nursing helps to conceptualise "users" as passive objects that are part of highly rationalised routines, similar to a "total institution".

Long abstract

Home care and nursing are some of the most prominent examples for Human-robot interaction (HRI). The paper starts from this observation and reconstructs, how care and nursing are indeed areas of application that are particularly well suited to the needs of robotics.

Based on ethnographic studies and interviews in social robotics laboratories, the epistemic conditions of robotics for care are reconstructed in a first step. In a second step, cases of care and nursing robots are anaylzed for their configurations of use and users (Woolgar 1990, Oudshoorn et al. 2004). It becomes apparent that most care robotics projects does not search for problems in care practice to solve, but rather for ways to implement previously defined robotic solutions - a "post-hoc" orientation in epistemological terms (Knorr Cetina 1984). The situational analysis (Clarke 2005) shows further, that the high degree of institutionalization of care and nursing practices is the first and foremost working point for roboticists in care. The "users" in those "scenarios" usually appear as passive objects that are already involved in highly rationalised routines, like inmates of a "total institution" (Goffman 1973). This reduction facilitates the development and implementation of a robot scenario insofar as the the "tasks" to be completed and the constellation of actors involved are definable in a rigorous manner.

The paper closes with a methodological assessment of the reconstructed practices and refers to the wider question, how social situations and interactions can be captured and conceptualized adequately with the epistemics of computer science and engineering.

Matters of concern in welfare technology

Authors: Michela Cozza (Mälardalen University) email
Lucia Crevani email
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Short abstract

Matters of concern can be defined as complicated, engaging, diverse, fragile, and situated issues that researchers can contribute to articulate. We present and discuss five matter of concern that emerged from a research project on ageing and welfare technology in Sweden.

Long abstract

Matters of concern (Latour 2005) can be defined as complicated, engaging, diverse, fragile, and situated issues for which we care. Researchers can contribute to articulating them. In this paper, we present and discuss five matters of concern that emerged by conducting participatory workshops on technology and older people needs. These activities are part of an ongoing project on ageing and welfare technology in Sweden (Cozza et al. 2016; Crevani and Cozza 2018). Two workshops were organized with older people (over 65 years old) who use digital technology to different degrees, two workshops with personnel of two municipalities (one workshop each), and one workshop with 'the technical group' (care professionals and municipal staff). Such activities were not designed with the intention of creating matters of concern ex-nihilo, but rather with the intention to create "arenas of voice" (Star and Strauss 1999) that is the conditions for each participant to sharing experiences and contributing to the material-discoursive articulation of possible matters of concern. One surfaced, these matters of concern do not need to be solved. Their importance lies in gathering attention to relevant issues to consider in developing welfare technology. By referring to the matters of concern in developing welfare technology, this contribution brings together STS and design research on gerontechnologies.

Matters of time - the different times of technological innovation and care practice

Authors: Marie Ertner (University of Copenhagen) email
Signe Louise Yndigegn (IT University of Copenhagen) email
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Short abstract

This paper explores the divergent ways of assembling ageing, time, technology and care in practices of innovation, home care, and the everyday lives of elderly people. Drawing on empirical observations of controversies around time and technology, we inquire into the ontology of time.

Long abstract

Time is a matter of great concern to healthcare and eldercare. In situations of austerity, time is both an essential resource and an issue - what to spend time on? how to save time? Care and innovation both consume time, but they are also practices that generate (or assemble) time in different ways.

Performative approaches to care and innovation have asked questions about the socio-material nature of things like technology, bodies, disease and care. In this paper we engage with the materiality of time, and ask how different material practices perform time in different ways.

Based on ethnographic observations of controversies around time in practices of eldercare and innovation we ask what kind of a thing is time? We draw on ethnographic studies conducted in different environments in Denmark; A collaborative innovation project seeking to develop new, innovative technologies to stimulate the 'active ageing' of older danish citizens; and a danish homecare unit engaged in tasks of implementing new technologies into professional care practice, and in the homes of older people.

Technologies for care-work promise to save and recover time, but, we contend, they also change what time is, which creates controversies when implemented in practices where other types of time prevail.

'Infomateriality': Whitehead and digital experience amongst the over 65s

Authors: David Kreps (University of Salford) email
Jessica Muirhead (University of Salford) email
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Short abstract

Older generations' experience has been more visceral than today's infoworld. Using Whitehead's process philosophy, and findings from four-week diary studies with over65s and under25s, we consider modes of importance, expression and understanding to reconceive contemporary infomateriality.

Long abstract

Baby boomers', and older generations' life experience has been more visceral than the disintermediated information world populated by agile young minds today. How do hands that have wielded industrial tools engage with the haptic gestures deployed with masterful finesse by those who grew up with a smartphone? What challenge do the invisible actants of the virtual present to those whose mastery was gained over a more mechanical world? What can we discern in the differences in self-concept between today's over65s and under25s that are reflective of the technological revolution between?

This paper presents findings from four week diary studies with six research cases: Silver Surfers - digitally literate over65s engaged with several devices on a day-to-day basis, confident in their use; Senior Explorers - over65s with the means to engage who are gaining experience in paying bills, talking to their grandchildren on Skype, etc; Senior Leapers - over65s attempting to cross the digital divide, acquiring the means to do so and learning the skills to engage; Digital Young Professionals - student 18-25s doing IT related courses, training to become professionals in the digital economy; Digital Natives - student 18-25s doing non-IT related courses, using learning technologies and social media; and Digital Naturals - non-student 18-25s whose engagement with the digital is almost entirely through their smartphone.

Using Whitehead's process philosophy, this paper analyses the results of these studies, and considers the modes of importance, expression and understanding through which we might reconceive contemporary infomateriality, the better to conceptualise gerontechnological innovation.

Designing persistent maladjustments: age simulation suits and the problematization of elder's agency

Authors: Lluvi Farré (Fundacio per a la Universitat Oberta de Catalunya) email
Daniel Lopez Gomez (Universitat Oberta de Catalunya) email
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Short abstract

We approach age simulator suits as test settings designed to hamper the material and emotional adjustments between the body and the environment, focusing a process of disentangling the individual agency of the elder and the collective agency of infrastructures in a new space of problematization.

Long abstract

In recent years, age simulation suits have proliferated as useful tools for researchers, designers, caregivers and even policy-makers to better address older's people needs. These suits are designed to make users gain first-hand insight into the experience of age-related impairments. They are usually meant to either sensitize and train health and social care professionals or enable designers, planners and engineers to develop age-friendly products. This contribution aims to understand how age is materially produced in these simulations through the analysis of self-reported experiences trying out a suit, advertisements and materials produced by developers, and interviews and observations with consultants working with age suits. Drawing on material-semiotic studies of disability (Winance 2006, Moser 2003), we approach age simulations as test settings designed to hamper the material and emotional adjustments between the body and the environment. We focus on the process of disentangling the individual agency of the older person and the collective agency of services and infrastructures for older people. We argue that this produces a space of problematization where the bodies, technologies and environments can be reconfigured according to new problem definitions and expert interventions, turning age suits into boost innovation devices of the new silver economy.

Translating cell biology of ageing? On the importance of choreographing knowledge

Author: Tiago Moreira (Durham University) email
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Short abstract

Drawing on a 3 year ethnography in a cell biology lab, this paper explores the dis/alignment between knowledge making practices in senescence research and 'translational' regimes of innovation in biomedicine and health.

Long abstract

Emergent technoscientific promises that hinge on the possibility of eliminating or manipulating senescent cells to tackle age-related diseases justify a renewed interest in ageing in the social studies of biomedicine. These proposals are significant because they represent attempts to solve historically constituted, epistemic and normative tensions between biology of ageing and biomedicine (Moreira, 2017). In this paper, I draw on a 3-year long ethnography in a cell biology of ageing laboratory to explore how the articulation between basic and clinical research is being crafted in this domain. I first describe how knowledge making in cell biology of ageing relies on two different epistemic and material cultures: visualisation and quantification. I argue that the focus of cell biologists' work on 'mechanisms', 'biomarkers' or 'clinical translation' is related to how uncertainty is distributed across the two sets of skills, instruments, repertoires of valuation, and types of objectivity. I suggest that funders and policy makers' requirement to find innovative applications for cell biology of ageing restricts the movement - the careful choreography - between the two epistemic cultures. This has consequences for cell biology of ageing's ability not only to re-open questions about the relationship between ageing and senescence but also to re-imagine the innovation regime for the 'aging society'.

Resourceful ageing: creative assemblages as quiet dissent against the paternalistic stance

Authors: Louis Neven (Avans University of Applied Sciences) email
Ivo Maathuis (Tilburg University) email
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Short abstract

This study investigates the resourceful (technological) solutions older people produce to solve everyday life problems. Such solutions are often seen as deviant or dangerous by engineers or care workers. We should instead see resourcefulness as a means towards more autonomy, self-reliance and fun.

Long abstract

While creativity and innovativeness is often seen as a positive trait for younger people, the use of everyday objects and technologies in unforeseen or creative ways by older people is often seen as a cause for concern. Such behavior is seen as erratic and dangerous by for instance engineers and care workers. Implicitly they adopt a paternalistic stance which allows them to decide what technologies are safe and useful for older people. To counter this stance and to improve our understanding of the creative ways in which older people solve problems in everyday life, we set out to investigate the resourcefulness of older people. The older participants were visited several times for semi-structured interviews and a tour of their home to discuss and photograph resourceful solutions. The older participants were also given an assignment to label artefacts which they used in everyday life, which they valued or used creatively. Our research shows that our older participants are very adept at creating (technological) solutions for everyday life problems, based on their own creativity and technological literacy. These solutions tended to be simple, cheap, easily understood and gave older adults a level of satisfaction and pride. While it is important to keep vulnerable older people safe, engineers and care workers who adopt a paternalistic stance tend to dissuade older people from solving their own problems, which reduces autonomy and makes people passive and reliant on external help. Enhancing their resourcefulness instead can lead to more autonomy, self-reliance and, if anything, fun.

Dying in place: almost at home

Author: Bernike Pasveer (Maastricht University ) email
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Short abstract

This paper looks at how 'homeliness' is calibrated in residential Dutch hospices. It argues that institutional ways of providing for autonomy, control and privacy tend to prioritize over residents' other orderings of these and other values.

Long abstract

Although the paradigm of aging in place focuses on the elderly and hence invokes and feeds on the specific knowledges and technologies developed as gerontology and gerontechnology, it seems to share with the domain of end of life care an imaginary of home and homeliness. Both domains mobilize knowledge, technologies, architectures and moralities that favour home as the place to be.

This paper looks at how 'home' is done in Dutch residential hospices as part of the queeste for dying in place. An important part of hospice's aspirations of being places that resemble home for who is unable to die at home concerns the provision of an environment that centers residents' autonomy, privacy and control over their lives. I analyse how these normativities are being enacted as the outcomes of specific intersections of hospice's institutional requirements and assumptions, and residents' propositions and definitions. I show that life in hospice - dying in place - tends to increasingly yproceed from hospices' and more generally palliative care's assumptions about rather than active enagements with and reflections on residents' ideas about dying in place.

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.