Technology as an extension of the human body : Exploring the potential role of technology in an elderly home care setting
Abstract: The present thesis explores the potential role and implications of technology in elderly care from the users’ perspective. This exploration is undertaken in terms of five empirical studies of a telehealth project and a meta-analysis of their contributions. An important insight emerging from this work is the need to rethink the human subject as a body, rather than as a mere mind using technology. The thesis draws on phenomenology to reconceptualize the user of technology, and on this basis, to theorize about the potential role and implications of technology in care. It concludes that, in combination with humans that integrate technology with their other sensory and emotional capacities, technology can produce affect. The findings indicate that technology can contribute to senior citizens feeling safe, cared for and thereby less isolated. The findings further demonstrate that, because of the perceptual capacity gained from technology, the care workers become aware of new health problems that urgently call for their sensory and emotional responsiveness.On this ground, the thesis challenges the determinist view that technology threatens the essentially ‘human’ aspect; rather, it concludes that feeling and other bodily resources are fundamental in the use of technology. Indeed, technology activates such ‘human’ capabilities.Hence, technology plays a role as a complement for rather than as a replacement of care workers. It increases their work burden by informing them about new needs. This may improve care quality but at an increased cost, which is relevant from a practical perspective. At a more general level, the thesis challenges the dualist legacies in mainstream management research that have sought to divorce mind form body, nature from culture and reason from emotion. It can therefore contribute to broader theoretical developments and fuel existing debates beyond the care setting.
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