9th Conference European Sociological Association

RN01 Ageing in Europe

2009-09-03 13:30:00 2009-09-03 15:00:00 Thursday, 3 September 13:30 - 15:00 Ageing and Technology 2 Building II, C5.08

Settings that make users: An ethnographic account of telecare for the elderly

From the point of view of developers, designers, providers and policy makers ?the user? seems to be the key element in telecare services. In this paper we would like to discuss this assumption by presenting preliminary results from an ethnographic research currently being held in two telecare services of the same provider in Catalunya and Madrid (Spain), as part of the EFORTT-FP7 project, devoted to the study of the implications of the introduction of remote care technologies worn, installed or embedded in the homes of older citizens. During the information-acquisition-installation process of every telecare service (held by providers, the future user and family members) both providers and installers constantly stress the importance of ?the user?. It is him or her who must want the service and sign the contract, with whom the particular home location of the device has to be negotiated; it is ?the user? who has to communicate his or her needs, illnesses, expectations about the service; and it is ultimately him or her who has to operate the service. That is, everything is set for and from the user. Through some ethnographic examples of home telecare device settings, in this paper we would like to show how a series of elements are arranged around the future user as a sort of choreography, an almost dramaturgical setting that is being performed around the person, configuring him or her as the main character. What we want to put forward is that the process of setting the device is not a mere technical activity of placing the device inside the home and making it work. In it the future user has to negotiate plenty of things with relatives, caregivers and teleacare technicians, such as rhythms of life, the location of the device and its relationship with different spaces of the dwelling or the relationships of the device with other objects in the house and other technologies. Our empirical insight is that through the technical configuration of the service, what might actually be configured is ?the user?. Hence, maybe it is not the device but the user what is set.