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Being Connected at Home: Digital Infrastructures of Health and Healthism in Later Life

Joint Programming Initiative, a collaboration with Spain, Sweden and the Netherlands. Canadian work plan funded through CIHR  MYB 155188

Barbara L. Marshall, Principal Investigator

Stephen Katz, Co-Investigator


About this Project

This multinational project investigates fundamental changes in the contemporary experiences of later life, at the intersection of digital infrastructures, place and the experience of ‘being connected’.  Researchers associated with the project are exploring and theorizing the role of a variety of digital communication devices in later life.  The research also has a practical goal of making findings actionable, involving older people, policy makers and other stakeholders in processes of co-design.

In addition to contributing to cross-national research on the use of digital devices, the project based at Trent focuses on ‘smart’ mobile, interactive and home-based digital health and fitness technologies, such as mobile blood pressure monitors; wearable activity trackers; technologies to record and track bodily measures like sleep and heart rate; apps that track characterological routines based on diet, drinking, mood and behavior; and digital apps and technologies that promise cognitive improvement. We develop the theme of ‘being connected’ by exploring the connections between people, these devices, and discourses of expertise as these shape aging embodiment, and focus on ‘home’ as a significant site of engagement between consumers, biomedical expertise and discourses of responsible and ‘healthy’ citizenship (‘healthism’).


Through a series of device ethnographies and qualitative interviews with users, we will explore the creation of home and neighborhoods as new digital health spaces and innovative networking hubs, mapping their everyday temporal and spatial dimensions, and the ways that expertise about ageing and health is both produced and reproduced as it circulates through them.  Our overall perspective, crucial to understanding the place of technology in aging contexts, is that new technologies cannot exist nor be theorised about in isolation from the people who adapt, use, fashion, connect, resist or experiment with the machines in their lives.

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