HDCA 2022: Digital transformation in UK sheltered housing
Paper title: Understanding evolving digital transformation in UK sheltered housing in terms of capabilities, resources, and empowerment
Authors: Cian O’Donovan, Ralitsa Hiteva, Kate Simpson, Melanie Smallman
Presented at the Human Development and Capabilities Approach Conference, Antwerp, 2022.
This article was originally going to be about processes of digital transformation in institutional situations. How these processes are reconstituting structures of living together within sheltered housing schemes in the United Kingdom, and what this tells us about capabilities and empowerment after covid-19. But on arriving at our research site, we were confronted by something curious, and a little awkward. We were decades late – digital had already transformed the situation. What we encountered during our 2022 research trips was contemporary digital transformation acting on and with the sedimented social and material infrastructures of previous waves of change. So, given digital has been contributing to our day-to-day doings and beings for some time now, what exactly do today’s digital transformations propose to transform, and to whose benefit?
This paper is about new and ongoing waves of digital transformation and the influence of evolving digital infrastructures and socio-material systems on capabilities and freedoms. We ask the following research questions: How can we understand evolving digital transformations in terms of the capabilities, empowerment and the conversion of resources? How does the digital constitute and reconstitute social and material relations that make-up individuals and communities and what opportunities do constituents have to alter these relations and thus themselves?
We illustrate our argument with a situational analysis of digital transformation across three sheltered housing schemes operated by a single housing association in the United Kingdom. Situational analysis is an interpretive, grounded theory approach that offers a materialist constructionism by mapping the social and material phenomena that make a difference in a given situation (Clarke, 2009). A situation is an inventory of communities and activities that happen in a space such as a housing scheme where space is considered relationally as shaped through shared discourse.
Within the housing schemes the situation we are interested in concerns the issues and implications of a recent installation of a second-generation digital monitoring and surveillance system. The system provides a set of interoperable emergency call pendants for residents, virtual warden visits to homes in the scheme, video telephony services, and integration with a remote monitoring call-centre for emergencies and other uses.
The analysis proceeds via a series of mapping techniques. First, situation maps of major human, non-human, discursive elements. Second at a meso-level collective actors and their shared or contended commitments are mapped. A third layer of mapping follows locating the major positions
slide 1 – Beaufort Court
I can’t tell you how speculative this is
- First because we’re still in the middle of the project. It’s heavy on description and less on firm argument. So let me have it.
- But second, and this is relevant to the broader themes of the conference about transformative institutions and whose institutions.
- this is a study a specific form of institutional organization, is a specific UK policy and social welfare sector.
- I suspect one of the troubles of that sector, long term care, is that it tries to ape the institutions, values and logics of heath care, and medicine. Squeezing them into institutions governed via market rules but generally underfunded and neglected when it comes to policy, financial support and digital transformation
- At the back of all of this work is a deep sceptisim that caring work is commensurate with these very western logics. So this is a study from inside the belly of the beast. I’d appreciate thoughts from elsewhere
slide 2 – Beaufort Court
- This is Beaufort Court St. Leonards on the south cosat of England
- It’s a housing association, 96 units, more than 100 residents, with a shared manager during the day and communal areas but in the main people live, independently.
- It’s run by Orbit housing – over 40,000 homes many in scheme or associations
- We’ve been sent in as researchers investigating well-being, sustainability and digital services.
- What are the links, if any?
- But more than this, what we’re trying to do here is understand ongoing waves of digital transformation
- What exactly is it transforming
- To whose benefit
- And who gets a say, and in what way.
- Does independent living mean auyonomous?
- Are people empowered by digital technologies
- And happens to collective capabilities and values along the way.
slide 3 – Beaufort Court
- How are active and convivial communities established and strengthened during the latest wave of post-covid digital transformation
- Especially in institutional settings such as sheltered housing schemes
- We want to develop an understanding digital transformation in terms of Situations as: distributed action and accomplishments which are produced through the conversion/translation of heterogeneous elements
slide 4 – conclusions
- Three observations
- First, digital services and technologies are not plug and play, despite their promises
- I think we are seeing some interesting capability development in terms of valued beings – the roles and identities people want to assume, or don’t
- This presents some possibilities for interventions.
slide 5 – part 1
slide 6 – why infrastructures not technologies
slide 7 – some literature
- Aside from engineering disciplines, human geography and STS is rich with views on the materials, practices and meanings of infrastructures
- Here are some friendly papers
- Notable others include the infrastructures of care literature from the sociology of health and illness crowd
- What we want to do in this paper is to take a view of co-production of material and discouse, and a socio-material systems perspective so that we can understand infrastructures and complex systems in practice
slide 8 – some literature
- I think these authors are, in their own distinct ways, invested in a vision where more lasting capabilities and freedoms are not the result of unmaking relations between persons and material environments but rather emerge through a careful reordering of those relations.
slide 9 – meaningful digital encounters
Following the literature…
- liberation is composed through gradual changes in everyday socio-technical relations of specific collectives.
- For the task of connecting design and development, this view extends to those relations established within technological artefacts in the course of their design and distribution.
- According to [[@Valentine2008]], meaningful encounters are those in which contact actually changes ==values== and translates beyond the specifics of the individual moment into a more general positive respect for – rather than merely tolerance of – others. In other words, encounters where attitudes and values are not left unmoved. At stake here are people and material objects, technologies, services and all the things we might expect to find in a home situation.
- Valentine’s important point was that proximity doesn’t always lead to shared values. This seems obvious, but it’s a really important thing. Indeed, it is close proximity which often generates or aggravates comparisons between different social groups
- Valentine’s work hints that there is value in mutual acknowledgement, what she calls small achievements in the good city.
- Our methodological concern is in meaningful digital encounters
- Encounters that change our experiences and perceptions beyond a single interaction
- In part to de-centre strong analytic framings of of choice and control in innovation as treatment studies
- Through situational analysis we understand situations as distributed action and accomplishments which are produced through the conversion/translation of heterogeneous elements, often during meaningful encounters staged through system configurations
- In this article then we seek to understand, situate, and prise apart these meaningful digital encounters as moments of conversion/translation. We then comment on the potential for designers and actors involved in configuring digital systems to open-up these encounters to a greater diversity of actors, intentions and purposes.
- In this presentation I’m going to focus on the last RQ
slide 11 – part II
slide 12 – where we visited
slide 13 – our methods
slide 14 – positions taken by residents
- These indicate some digital capabilities valued by residents. But more work to do on this
- None of these views are particularly surprising, what we’d expect to find in any study of technology
slide 17 – Emerging themes around disconnection, control and comfort
- The point here is that this is not a convivial digital community
slide 18 – part III encountering infrastructures
slide 19 – limitations of plug and play logics
slide 20- co-production of new roles, identities, subjectivities
slide 21 – experiences that change perceptions and values beyond a single interaction
slide 22 – building convivial digital infrastructure
- Opportunity to foster meaningful encounters for residents happen in these infrastructure spaces
- For instance social housing, healthcare providers, local authorities, residences, staff, etc.) to deliver wider societal benefits (healthy ageing, inclusion) as well as core organisaitonal objectives such as interoperability)