Care organising technologies and the post-phenomenology of care: An ethnographic case study
Shaw SE., Hughes G., Hinder S., Carolan S., Greenhalgh T.
© 2020 The Authors Care organising technologies are software applications that are intended primarily for informal carers, to help organise, document and coordinate caring work. These may be purchased privately or provided as part of state support. Take-up to date remains low. Based on empirical case studies of three such technologies and drawing on post-phenomenology and political science, we examined people's experience of caring when caring technologies find a way into their lives. Our findings show how care organising technologies have evolved in a political context that assumes informal support will supplement and sometimes substitute for state support. Technologies were largely designed to foreground the technical and organisational aspects of care such as planning meals, coordinating medication, and allocating and monitoring tasks among carers. For carers, the result was often a flattening of the landscape of care such that the socio-emotional work of caring was rendered invisible and relations between cared-for and caregiver were configured in narrow transactional terms. For a small number of carers, the focus on tasks was out of tune with their (often emotionally charged) experiences of care and led to active rejection of the technology. However, we also found examples of caregivers and the individuals they cared for using technologies adaptively to facilitate and embed existing care relationships. In these examples, the material/technical, socio-emotional and bodily aspects of caring were interwoven with the situated context of close, unique and evolving relationships. We conclude that the design and development of caring technologies would benefit by being informed by a broader orientation of caring as a relational practice.