Imagining and Tinkering with Assistive Robotics in Care for the Disabled

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The media and political/managerial levels focus on the opportunities to re-perform the Scandinavian welfare states through digitization. Especially in Denmark, this trend is prominent. Welfare technology is a Scandinavian notion used to point at assistive technologies intending to support the elderly and the disabled and their care providers. Feeding assistive robotics (FAR) is a welfare technology, relevant to citizens with no function in their arms. Despite national dissemination strategies, it proves difficult to recruit suitable citizens. There have been many promises for the potential of welfare technologies and assistive robotics, including more cost-efficient healthcare delivery, engaged patients/citizens and connected care providers. However, the realities of enacting telecare, whether as patients or care providers, can be complicated, in ways often unanticipated by government agencies and technology developers. This study discusses roboticists’ and governmental agencies’ imaginaries with regard to what robotics can do in care work and argues that imaginaries intertwine with affected stakeholders’ organizing of their worlds. On this founding, the paper discusses the resulting tinkering during implementation. The study exemplifies and demonstrates how ethnography may be used as an important methodological tool in HRI research. The Actor Network Theory idea of ‘follow the actor’ inspired the study that took place as multi-sited ethnography at different locations in Denmark and Sweden. Based on desk research, observation of meals and interviews I examined sociotechnical imaginaries and their intertwinement, practical and ethical implications. Human - FAR interaction demands engagement and sustained patience and understanding of the citizen’s particular body, identity issues and situation. The study contributes to the HRI interaction literature by providing detailed empirical analysis based on an ethnographic study, where political strategies and imaginaries, the technology developers’ assumptions, and users and care providers everyday hassles are in focus at the same time.
Keywords: Sociotechnical imaginaries, tinkering, STS, assistive robotics, care work
Sider (fra-til)128-139
StatusUdgivet - mar. 2019

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