Ageing, agency and technology in everyday life
Department of Social Sciences and Philosophy University of Jyväskylä Jyväskylä, Finland
Sociological discussions about human agency is becoming more and more important in the sociology of ageing. Based on some elements of Anthony Giddens? structuration theory and of so-called semiotic sociology my paper elaborates a heuristic agency framework for the analysis of use of technology in old age care. According to this framework it is important to distinguish between different modal dimensions of situated human action and to approach the activity of participants from different perspectives.
The paper shows how the model can be used when analysing action and its bodily, social and cultural aspects in everyday life situations. The model also affords the analysis of elderly individuals, the situations of their everyday lives, of various operational procedures and practices of geriatric care, the application of welfare technology, various physical and social spaces, or local cultures within geriatric care facilities and institutions.
One practical application of the model to the field of gerontechnology is the use of mobile phone cameras in informal care. In some cases, the person being cared for is monitored via mobile phone technology, and the caregiver can use the phone to call and check up on the person being cared for. From the agency point of view the situation can be examined from the perspective of both the caregiver and the person being cared for. Using the agency framework it is important to ask: What abilities and capabilities does the situation require? What wants and desires does it include? What kinds of obligations, limitations and possibilities does the situation create for the caregiver on the one hand and the person being cared for on the other? And how is the situation experienced? What kind of emotional dimension is involved? These types of questions can be applied to different technologies across situations, and examined from the perspective of professionals in the field of geriatric care and the entire service system.