Using Technologies with Care : Notes on Technology Assimilation Processes in Home Care

Abstract: Elderly care is currently undergoing a phase of development in which new technologies are anticipated to increase efficiency, secure quality of services and give care assistants more time with the elderly people. This thesis reports on a study of how people involve technologies in everyday home care work. It focuses on assimilation processes associated with people’s use of information and communication technologies (ICT) and other technologies. The main problem addressed in the thesis is how do care assistants assimilate new emerging technologies in their work practice? The aim of this study is to gain an understanding of assimilation processes and the ways that people learn and select different features of technologies in practice. Technology assimilation processes are in this work assumed being part of people’s everyday use and exploration of the technologies they have at hand. The underpinning fieldwork commenced 2001 and ended 2006 and comprises ethnographical workplace studies in three different home care organisations. When new technologies are brought into an organisation they are not introduced into a vacuum; the thesis shows they are introduced into an existing ecology of work, where links between technologies and resources are tightly associated with ways people deal with contingencies and coordination. The result of the study show that when individuals and workgroups configure their own web of supporting technologies they also reconfigure their workplace. In this work it is revealed that the home care geography holds two main activity domains which provide radically different conditions for technology use. How people effectively manage to balance their work in the two domains is seen as a crucial component in how we can understand use of new technologies. It is also concluded that the involvement of new technologies effect the structure of work as the care assistants either loose or are given a strengthened autonomy and control in their work. This is a relationship that is effected by and dependent on the different ways new technologies are involved and used. Assimilation processes are in this work understood as an ongoing orchestration of tools and technologies. They are catalysed through the conflict between new and established routines and the provision of a social space of innovation, which call for the ability to detect aspects in current practices that could be sorted out, retained and selected to be part of innovation. In home care, an example such innovation is found in innovative ways managing technologies and their involvement in practice. The challenge is to grasp how everyday assimilation processes can strategically advance practice as a whole. The perspective offered by - using technologies with care - suggests a different view on innovation. Such a view focuses on innovative use and workplace configurations, as it is aware of novel technical configurations.