S6.8 Socio-gerontechnology – digital life worlds of older people
Chair: Anna Wanka
The experience of ageing today is being shaped by the use of new technologies. In reaction to demographic change, large scale research and innovation programs seek to support active, healthy and independent ageing with the aid of new technologies. However, research still struggles to theoretically conceptualize ageing with new technologies. The session aims to tackle this challenge by exploring perspectives from different disciplines (e.g. gerontology, sociology, science-and-technology studies (STS) and opening up socio-gerontechnology as an interdisciplinary field. What lessons can these disciplines learn from each other to formulate an agenda for future ageing research? For this session, we gathered submissions that address how age is perceived, experienced and constructed through digital technologies. We invited five speakers who will each bring a different perspective to the session: Wendy Martin and Katy Pilcher will discuss how everyday lives of older adults are built, maintained and experienced around digital technologies, Arianna Poli will explore social inequalities in access to technologies, Michaela Cozza will analyse participatory design through STS and Aske Laasen and Marie Ertner will critically explore the ontological concepts in Gerontechnology. Vera Gallistl will open the session, to discuss similarities and faultiness between these different theoretical approaches.
S6.8.1 Re-thinking Ageing in a Digital World – Theoretical Perspectives from Gerontology, Sociology, and Science-and-Technology Studies
Vera Gallistl1, Anna Wanka2
1University of Vienna, Austria, 2University of Frankfurt, Germany
Background. Despite the increasing interest in the field of ageing and technologies, it still lacks theorizing. This paper addresses this lack, suggesting that the field could profit from a comprehensive integration of theories from gerontology, sociology, and science-and-technology studies (STS). It systematically discusses similarities and contradictions between theoretical approaches to ageing and technologies in these disciplines. Methods. The paper is based upon literature review and theoretical comparison. Results. Analysis unveils the blind spots of gerontology, sociology and STS: Gerontology may comprehend the multifaceted nature of ageing, but lacks a thorough understanding of how technologies are designed to interact with older adults; sociology emphasizes how human behaviour is structured by power relations, but regards too little the role of non-human actors; and STS provides an elaborate understanding of the non-human, but is blind to social inequalities. Conclusion. Theoretical comparison shows that social constructivist approaches in all three disciplines provide a fruitful way of re-thinking ageing in a digitized world. Bourdieu’s theory of social practice and Latour’s Actor-Network-Theory prove to be theory-rich counterparts that can be combined to study ageing with technologies, without neglecting the role of neither the non-human nor power relations.
S6.8.2 Visual Representations of Digital Connectivity in Everyday Lifee-thinking
Wendy Martin1, Katy Pilcher2
1 Brunel University London, UK, 2Aston University, UK
Background. This paper draws on data from the empirical study Photographing Everyday Life: Ageing, Lived Experiences, Time and Space funded by the ESRC. The focus of the project was to explore the significance of the ordinary and day-to-day and focus on the everyday meanings, lived experiences, practical activities and social contexts in which people in mid to later life live their daily lives. Methods. The research involved a diverse sample of 62 women and men aged 50 years and over who took photographs of their different daily routines to create a weekly visual diary. This diary was then explored through in-depth photo-elicitation interviews to make visible the rhythms, patterns and meanings that underlie habitual and routinized everyday worlds. The data was analysed using the software Atlas Ti. Results. The analysis highlighted: (1) the increasing importance of digital connectivity and the ways in which people in mid to later life actively engage (and resist) technologies of communication in their daily lives; and (2) the significance of embodied co-presence and the immediacy of shared space and/or time. Implications. Exploring the routines, meanings, and patterns that underpin everyday life has enabled us to make visible how people build, maintain and experience their social and virtual connections.
S6.8.3 Selective participation of older people in e-Health research: a critical approach from an inequality perspective
Lingköping University, Sweden
Background. e-Health has potential in supporting health and wellbeing of older people and optimizing the care provision. Such findings support the ongoing digitalisation of healthcare services aiming at introducing e-Health into the care routine. A growing concern is whether e-Health guarantees equal access and advantage to different groups of older people or, rather, hinders somebody benefiting. Some studies reported e-Health on routine tends to lack inclusiveness, especially concerning people e.g. in old age, with lower socioeconomic status, ethnic minorities, living remote areas, with poor digital skills. The cumulative life-course inequality lens can serve to explain the diverse participation in such digitalization process by diverse older adults, particularly in the research phases, and to anticipate the possible increase of exclusion and exacerbation of inequalities. Methods. We will discuss a conceptualization of the selective participation in the e-Health research and present a methodological approach developed for analyzing and estimating its impact on the results obtained. Results. Evidence from literature assessment and empirical analyses on the influence of selectively tested e- Health on patterns of social inequality will be presented. The presentation refers to the theory of social inequality and the empirical knowledge on inequality. Conclusion. To exploit the potential and the benefits, inclusiveness in the e-Health provision has to be fostered. One way to do so is to pay attention to the selective participation and promote better results for the e-Health research.
S6.8.4 Engagement by infrastructuring
Mälardalen University, Sweden
Background.The increasing pervasiveness of technology in all spheres of people’s lives and in different application contexts poses challenges that go far beyond the design of technology. This paper presents a case study draws from a two-year research project (2014-2016), which was aimed at developing welfare services for older people in their private home. Methods. This goal was pursued through a set of participatory activities aimed at infrastructuring meant as the process of creating the conditions for innovation, unfolding on two dimensions: technical and social infrastructuring.Results.By applying an STS-inspired design, I elaborate on the results of specific participatory activities and, in particular, on how this process can facilitate the engagement of older people with the resulting artefacts and favour a more effective collaboration between all actors involved (including families and caregivers). In particular, I focus on the process of engagement at design time, which relates to the involvement and participation of a heterogeneous group of people during the design of an artefact. Conclusion.The final discussion elaborates on the implications of engagement as a theme unfolding on the democratic connotation of participation and discusses implications for open participation.
S6.8.5 The mutual emergence of technological innovations, older users and active ageing: An inquiry into ontology
Aske Juul Lassen, Marie Ertner
University of Copenhagen, Denkmark
Background. Social studies of gerontechnology often study the relations between technology and its users, and thus tend to remain within the analytical realm of the subjective experiences of individual actors. While this is certainly important, it has some problematic effects such as analyzing ‘technology’, ‘user’, and indeed ‘the researcher’ as singular and stable entities, thus closing down possibilities to explore situated emergences. Methods. We wish to explore the implications and potentials of turning the study of socio-gerontechnology towards emergence. We look back on our own ethnographic studies of - and in - an innovation project aiming to develop welfare technologies for older people in Denmark. Results. The entanglement between the technology innovations, older users and ideals of active ageing is an example of an emerging world, wherein a new old age is performed, but where classic relations between technologies and older users are reproduced (acting technology, passive recipient). Conclusions. The inquiry into ontology enables a reframing of the relations between technologies and older people, with potentials for new articulations of the new old age and technologies for the old.