Towards Socio-Gerontechnology: Modelling the Theoretical Intersection of Social Science and Gerontechnology

Monday, 11 July 2016: 16:48
Location: Hörsaal 42 (Main Building)
Oral Presentation
Louis NEVEN, Avans University of Applied Science, Netherlands
Alexander PEINE, University of Utrecht, Netherlands
This paper investigates the theoretical gains which can be made by combining conceptual and theoretical insights from social gerontology and science and technology studies with gerontechnological theory. Although ageing is globally recognized as one of the biggest societal challenges and investments in technologies to deal with this challenge are high, current gerontechnologies mostly fail to live up to expectations. Partly this is due to the poor connection between social scientific understanding of ageing and the mostly technically focused discipline of gerontechnology. This paper presents a theoretical model in which the relationship between designers and users is modelled as reciprocal and evolving over time. The connection between design and use is made via the script concept whereas the connection between use and design is made via the user representation concept (both pertaining to actor-network theory). Acceptance is seen as dependent on technological literacy, technology generations, perceived stigmatisation, perceived benefit and domesticability of a technology. Older users are, in turn, seen as potentially active actors who are both enabled and constrained by gerontechnologies. However, older users are also constrained within their context (having to act their age, bounded within pension systems, care relations etc.). The evolution of the connection between older user and the technology can subsequently be followed over time, which allows for conceptualizing the life course as a user-technology hybrid. This model sensitises us to the stereotypical imagery of ageing that underlies many gerontechnological designs, to the constraining (and enabling) effects of age scripts that are the result of such user representations and to the ability of older people to act as active technology users who change and circumvent such scripts. It thus allows a deeper and theoretically more refined understanding of the ageing-technology nexus. We conclude by exploring the implications of our model for policy making and gerontechnological design.