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Special Issue "In the Hands of Technology: Care in the XXI Century"

A special issue of International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health (ISSN 1660-4601). This special issue belongs to the section "Health Care Sciences & Services".

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (15 July 2021).

Special Issue Editors

Dr. Miquel Domènech
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
Department of Social Psychology, Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, Campus de la UAB, Plaça Cívica, 08193 Barcelona, Spain
Interests: care technologies; science and technology studies; citizen participation in technoscientific issues; participatory design
Ms. Núria Vallès-Peris
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
Social Psychology, Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, Campus de la UAB, Plaça Cívica, 08193 Bellaterra, Barcelona, Spain
Interests: science and technology studies; social imaginaries; ethics of technology; care technologies

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

The incorporation of technological solutions to all kinds of problems is something which is becoming more and more present in our daily life. Care is not an exception. Teleassistance devices, diabetes monitoring systems, intelligent houses or robotic pets are examples of present caring technologies that condition and modulate our relations with the environment and with others. “In the Hands of Technology: Care in the XXI Century” is an invitation to reflect on the development of care technologies, with a special interest in identifying the main challenges of the intensification of the implementation of technology into care processes.


Faced with discourses that often see the incorporation of technology into care processes as inevitable, we propose an in-depth discussion on how we want to be cared for in the future. Not to deny a role to technology, but to take it to the point where it can serve as a contribution to good care. We would like to receive submissions covering all the possible aspects concerning this debate: ethical, social, political, economic, and so on.


There are many issues we would like to address. For instance: What are the ethics of care embedded in technological developments? Do caring artifacts respond to the emotional and social needs of most vulnerable people? What is the economic and political logic behind the development of care robots and other similar technologies? How do the different groups involved in the care activities participate in the conception and design of these devices?


This Special Issue departs from the present, but it is a reflection on the future, on how we want to approach our life in common with the machines of tomorrow. It is a reflection on how we want to grow, how we want to age, the world we want to be born in, and the technologies we will find in it.

The list of topics may include (but are not limited to):

  • The future of care
  • Ethical issues
  • The impact of technology in vulnerable groups
  • The role of robots in care
  • The design of technologies of care
  • Imaginaries of care technologies
  • Aging in a technological world
  • Care technology assessment
  • STS approach to care

Dr. Miquel Domènech
Ms. Núria Vallès-Peris
Guest Editors

Manuscript Submission Information

Manuscripts should be submitted online at www.mdpi.com by registering and logging in to this website. Once you are registered, click here to go to the submission form. Manuscripts can be submitted until the deadline. All papers will be peer-reviewed. Accepted papers will be published continuously in the journal (as soon as accepted) and will be listed together on the special issue website. Research articles, review articles as well as short communications are invited. For planned papers, a title and short abstract (about 100 words) can be sent to the Editorial Office for announcement on this website.

Submitted manuscripts should not have been published previously, nor be under consideration for publication elsewhere (except conference proceedings papers). All manuscripts are thoroughly refereed through a single-blind peer-review process. A guide for authors and other relevant information for submission of manuscripts is available on the Instructions for Authors page. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health is an international peer-reviewed open access semimonthly journal published by MDPI.

Please visit the Instructions for Authors page before submitting a manuscript. The Article Processing Charge (APC) for publication in this open access journal is 2300 CHF (Swiss Francs). Submitted papers should be well formatted and use good English. Authors may use MDPI's English editing service prior to publication or during author revisions.

Keywords

  • care technologies
  • robots for care
  • ethics
  • social impact of technologies

Published Papers (5 papers)

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Research

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Article
From Mattering to Mattering More: ‘Goods’ and ‘Bads’ in Ageing and Innovation Policy Discourses
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2021, 18(14), 7596; https://0-doi-org.brum.beds.ac.uk/10.3390/ijerph18147596 - 16 Jul 2021
Viewed by 464
Abstract
This paper provides an empirical ethics analysis of the goods and bads enacted in EU ageing and innovation policy discourses. It revolves around a case study of the persona Maria, developed as part of the EU’s Active and Healthy Ageing Policies. Drawing on [...] Read more.
This paper provides an empirical ethics analysis of the goods and bads enacted in EU ageing and innovation policy discourses. It revolves around a case study of the persona Maria, developed as part of the EU’s Active and Healthy Ageing Policies. Drawing on Pols’ empirical ethics as a theoretical and methodological approach, we describe the variety of goods (practices/situations to be strived for) and bads (practices/situations to be avoided) that are articulated in Maria’s persona. We analyse how certain ideas about good and bad ageing—those associated with the use of sophisticated technologies—come to matter more in the solutions proposed for Maria and the framing of her unmet needs, while others which were initially seen as relevant and that describe her dreams, fears and interactions, are marginalised. The paper adds to existing studies of ageing and technology by analysing specific practices that render visible how the idea of technology and data sharing as evidently the right path towards futures of (good) ageing, comes to prevail. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue In the Hands of Technology: Care in the XXI Century)
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Article
The Alexafication of Adult Social Care: Virtual Assistants and the Changing Role of Local Government in England
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2021, 18(2), 812; https://0-doi-org.brum.beds.ac.uk/10.3390/ijerph18020812 - 19 Jan 2021
Viewed by 1033
Abstract
Voice controlled virtual assistants, delivered via consumer devices such as smart speakers and tablets, are being trialled by local authorities across England as a convenient and low-cost supplement or potential alternative to “traditional” telecare. Few papers have explored this increasingly widespread phenomenon, despite [...] Read more.
Voice controlled virtual assistants, delivered via consumer devices such as smart speakers and tablets, are being trialled by local authorities across England as a convenient and low-cost supplement or potential alternative to “traditional” telecare. Few papers have explored this increasingly widespread phenomenon, despite its growing importance. This article looks at choices by some local authorities to trial Alexa, within the context of the ongoing care crisis in England, with councils facing depleted funds, a lack of expert guidance on care technologies, and an increasingly complex and fragmented care technology marketplace. It draws on interviews with managers from eight English local authorities involved in the commissioning and trialling of technologies for adult social care to examine how and why virtual assistants are being implemented, and what implications their use might hold for care. Scaling up the application of such technologies could shift the role of local authorities towards one of an app developer and data broker, while generating considerable risks of reliance on the precarious technological infrastructure of global corporations that may have little interest in or sensitivity towards local care concerns. The findings suggest an urgent need for a national social care technology strategy and increased support for local authorities. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue In the Hands of Technology: Care in the XXI Century)
Article
Workshops as Tools for Developing Collaborative Practice across Professional Social Worlds in Telemonitoring
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2021, 18(1), 181; https://0-doi-org.brum.beds.ac.uk/10.3390/ijerph18010181 - 29 Dec 2020
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 643
Abstract
Background: Lately, patients suffering from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease use telemonitoring services from home. We discuss three professional groups’ idea of good care in terms of living as a chronically ill patient. Methods: We scrutinize a workshop consisting of the following: (1) presentation [...] Read more.
Background: Lately, patients suffering from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease use telemonitoring services from home. We discuss three professional groups’ idea of good care in terms of living as a chronically ill patient. Methods: We scrutinize a workshop consisting of the following: (1) presentation of pre-workshop interviews focusing on good patient flows; (2) presentation of the participants’ photos illustrating their idea of the good life with telemonitoring; (3) discussion of what the three social worlds of care can do together. We understand workshops as learning events founded on the symbolic interactionist idea of learning as reflexism. That is, the process where participants make joint action an object of attention. Results: We propose that not only people, but also objects such as applications, gold standards, and financial arrangement are actively involved in hampering collaboration across social worlds. The contribution is a discussion of the contemporary challenges of technological intensification into healthcare processes seen as a learning event. Conclusion: Workshops constitute useful tools to understand more of how professional groups seek to adopt new technologies and learn about the larger structure of telemonitoring. Developing joint action among social worlds appears to be one of the main challenges of technologically driven innovation in healthcare. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue In the Hands of Technology: Care in the XXI Century)
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Article
Impacts of a Care Robotics Project on Finnish Home Care Workers’ Attitudes towards Robots
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2020, 17(19), 7176; https://0-doi-org.brum.beds.ac.uk/10.3390/ijerph17197176 - 30 Sep 2020
Viewed by 691
Abstract
Technological advances in elderly care have been rapid, and the introduction of robots in care will be a topical issue in the near future. There has been little research into the possibility of influencing care workers’ attitudes towards robots by project activities, and [...] Read more.
Technological advances in elderly care have been rapid, and the introduction of robots in care will be a topical issue in the near future. There has been little research into the possibility of influencing care workers’ attitudes towards robots by project activities, and how to make the change easier for work communities. This study focuses on a robotics project that took place in elderly and home care services in one municipality in Finland (total of 45 care workers). During the project, four robotics workshops and one extended pilot session were implemented. The study follows quasi-experimental settings, and it included two measurements (before and after project activities) and a control group, but no randomization. The data were collected by questionnaires and were analyzed statistically. The project under study brought about minor positive changes in home care workers’ attitudes towards the usefulness of care robots. In the final measurement, the difference between the test group and the control group was significant in the two dimensions of positive attitudes. The research supports the hypothesis that project activities can be used to influence home care workers’ attitudes towards robots. This can also facilitate the introduction of care robots in home care services. However, the construction of a technology-positive care culture is a long-term process, which requires training and development, technological development and strong strategic management at various levels. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue In the Hands of Technology: Care in the XXI Century)
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Review

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Review
Social Telepresence Robots: A Narrative Review of Experiments Involving Older Adults before and during the COVID-19 Pandemic
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2021, 18(7), 3597; https://0-doi-org.brum.beds.ac.uk/10.3390/ijerph18073597 - 30 Mar 2021
Viewed by 1067
Abstract
Social isolation is a common phenomenon among the elderly. Retirement, widowhood, and increased prevalence of chronic diseases in this age group lead to a decline in social relationships, which in turn has adverse consequences on health and well-being. The coronavirus COVID-19 crisis worsened [...] Read more.
Social isolation is a common phenomenon among the elderly. Retirement, widowhood, and increased prevalence of chronic diseases in this age group lead to a decline in social relationships, which in turn has adverse consequences on health and well-being. The coronavirus COVID-19 crisis worsened this situation, raising interest for mobile telepresence robots (MTR) that would help create, maintain, and strengthen social relationships. MTR are tools equipped with a camera, monitor, microphone, and speaker, with a body on wheels that allows for remote-controlled and sometimes autonomous movement aiming to provide easy access to assistance and networking services. We conducted a narrative review of literature describing experimental studies of MTR involving elderly people over the last 20 years, including during the COVID-19 period. The aim of this review was to examine whether MTR use was beneficial for reducing loneliness and social isolation among older adults at home and in health and care institutions and to examine the current benefits and barriers to their use and implementation. We screened 1754 references and included 24 research papers focusing on the usability, acceptability, and effectiveness of MTR. News reports on MTR use during the COVID-19 period were also examined. A qualitative, multidimensional analysis methodology inspired by a health technology assessment model was used to identify facilitating and limiting factors and investigate if and how MTR could reduce social isolation in elderly people. Reviewed studies provide encouraging evidence that MTR have potential in this regard, as experiments report positive feedback on MTR design and core functionalities. However, our analysis also points to specific technical, ergonomic, and ethical challenges that remain to be solved, highlighting the need for further multidimensional research on the design and impact of MTR interventions for older adults and building on new insights gained during the COVID-19 pandemic. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue In the Hands of Technology: Care in the XXI Century)
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