Little arrangements that matter. Rethinking autonomy-enabling innovations for later life



This paper explores the variety of socio-material arrangements that enable older people to continue living independently. Drawing on a collection of ethnographic observations and interviews with telecare users I conducted at their homes in 2004 and 2008, I will analyse in detail how the process of adopting the service makes visible and puts to the test certain arrangements that already exist, providing room for their modification and the creation of new ones. Through the description of three types of arrangement resulting from this process, I will initially demonstrate how autonomy emerges as a materially heterogeneous and distributed attribute. I will then discuss literature on disability and ageing originating from the Science and Technology Studies (STS), which has strongly influenced this conception. By considering concern with these arrangements to be an ontological obligation, I propose approaching autonomy as the activity of constantly testing and attuning these arrangements. This will not only serve to problematise the notion of autonomy in active ageing policies, but also autonomy-enabling innovations. Rather than replacing existing arrangements with new solutions, I suggest maintenance infrastructures be devised to support the bounded and inalienable undertaking of caring for these arrangements which configure our autonomous, yet ageing lives.

López, D. (2015). Little arrangements that matter. Rethinking autonomy-enabling innovations for later life. Technological Forecasting and Social Change, 93, 91-101.