The Mutual Emergence of Technological Innovations, Older Users, and Active Ageing: An Inquiry into Ontology

Friday, 20 July 2018: 17:30
Oral Presentation
Aske Juul LASSEN, Copenhagen University, Denmark
Marie ERTNER, Copenhagen University, Denmark
Inquiry into ontology has become a prominent topic within Science and Technology Studies (STS). One general characteristic of ontological STS is an interest in how things (objects, facts, policy concepts, technologies and so on) participate in the emergence of socio-material worlds. This interest in emergence is often coupled with the wish to interfere in common sense perceptions of the world as being stable, singular and thus the foundation for technological development. Opposed to this view, ontological approaches see ‘worlds’ as effects of collective social and material practices. Bringing the ontological turn into the study of geron-technology implies acknowledging the inseparability of things such as technology, older users, and policies on ageing, and open up to analyses of multiple and entangled ‘worlds’ in which specific normativities, values and versions of old age emerge.

Social studies of geron-technology often explore the relations between technology and its users epistemologically and thus tend to remain within the analytical realm of the subjective experiences of individual actors. While this is certainly important, it has some problematic implications such as analyzing ‘technology’, ‘user’, and indeed ‘the researcher’ as singular and detached entities, thus closing down possibilities to explore mutual emergence.

We wish to explore the implications and potentials of turning the study of socio-gerontechnology towards ontology. We look back on our own ethnographic studies of - and in - an innovation project aiming to develop welfare technologies for older people in Denmark. Re-working our empirical-analytical material through the conceptual lens of ontology, we analyze the worlds performed in the innovation project, and discuss the implications of this kind of analysis for design, policies on ageing, and the older people. As such, we explore what an ontological approach to socio-gerontechnology may be, and what kinds of questions emerge in the encounter between social gerontology and ontological STS.