Analysing hands-on-tech carework in telecare installations: Frictional Encounters with Gerontechnological Designs



In the past twenty years, gerontechnological technologies have been marketed as plug-and-play solutions to complex and costly care necessities. They are expected to reduce the cost of traditional forms of hands-on-care. Science and Technology Studies (STS) have contributed to discussing this idea (for an overall perspective, see Schillmeier and Domenech 2010) by pointing at important transformations in the care arrangements where these technologies are implemented. Instead of just ‘plug-and-play’ solutions, transformations are found in protagonists, their roles and functions, and more importantly in redefining care. This chapter seeks to add new nuances to the definition of care in these scenarios by paying attention to what we term ‘hands-on-tech care work’. This terminology refers to the practices, usually undertaken by technicians (installation, repair and maintenance), which hold together the silent infrastructures that are now considered to be suitable and sustainable forms of care work for ageing societies. Hands-on-tech care work is usually hidden from most of the discussions concerning new care technologies for older people. On the one hand, this is because installation, repair and maintenance work on telecare devices is considered as a mere technical procedure, i.e. not considered to be part of care work. On the other hand, it is because of the widespread view that if technologies are well designed, installing them is simply a matter of ‘plug-and-play’. However, if we look carefully into the installation process, these concepts are easily refuted. This is because these technologies need to be continually welcomed, tuned, adjusted, tweaked, personalized, updated and installed.

López, D. & Sánchez Criado, T. (2015). Analysing Hands-on-Tech Care Work in Telecare Installations: Frictional Encounters with Gerontechnological Designs In D. Prendergast & C. Garattini (Eds.), Aging and the Digital Life Course (pp. 179–197). Oxford: Berghahn.

Tomás Sánchez Criado (Munich Center for Technology in Society & Department of Architecture, TU Munich)