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Visualizing the Datasphere: Representations of Old Bodies and Their Data in Promotional Images of Smart Sensor Technologies for Ageing at Home

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Wendy Martin, Kirsten L. Ellison, Barbara L. Marshall and Isabel Pedersen present this conference paper at the The XX ISA World Congress of Sociology, Melbourne, Australia, June 25-July 1, 2023. The conference theme is Resurgent Authoritarianism: Sociology of New Entanglements of Religions, Politics, and Economies. The paper discusses how technologies for people ageing at home are increasingly prevalent and include ambient monitoring devices that work together with wearables to remotely track and monitor older adults’ biometric data and activities of daily living. There is however little research into the promotional and speculative images of technology-in-use. Our paper examines the ways in which the datafication of ageing is offered up visually by technology companies to promote their products. Specifically, we ask: how is data visualized in promotional images of smart sensor technologies for ageing at home? And in these visualizations, what happens to the ageing body and relations of care? We include in our definition of smart sensor technologies both wearable and ambient monitoring devices, so long as they are used for the in-home passive monitoring of the inhabitant by a caregiver, excluding those devices targeted for institutional settings or those used for self-monitoring purposes. Our sample consists of 221 images collected between January and July of 2021 from the websites of 14 English-language companies that offer smart sensor technology for ageing at home. Following a thematic and semiotic analysis we present 3 themes on the visual representation of old bodies and their data: (1) Captured Data, (2) Spatialized Data, and (3) Networked Data. Each, we argue, contribute to a broader visualization of the ‘datasphere’. We conclude by highlighting the underlying assumptions of ageing bodies in the co-constitution of ageing and technologies in which the materiality of bodies is more often lost, reduced to data points and automated care scenarios, and further disentangled from other bodies, contexts and things.

Date & Time:
Jun 25, 2023, 08:00 AM -
Jul 01, 2023, 05:00 PM  AEST
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