Voice-based Technology and Ageing: Infrastructures of Voice, Environments of Affect

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Voice-enabled technology has been celebrated as a breakthrough in eldercare. Mainstream discourses emphasize voice-based technology as practical assistants, and thus figure voice as a practical means to achieve certain ends. But there is more to voice interactions than merely distributing messages and articulating commands. Voice-based interactions create sonic environments, enact affect, identities, likes and dislikes.

In this presentation we will explore the phenomenon of voice-based technology in the smart-home. Through ethnographic interviews we study how older people use voice-based technologies and with what effects for their experiences of the affective environment in their homes. We combine the concept from Science and Technology Studies of infrastructure with a cultural anthropological view on voice. Based on this, we see voice-based interactions as infrastructures that link the realms of the technical, cultural and sociopolitical to the level of the individual, creating sites where shared discourses and values, affect, and aesthetics are made manifest in and contested through embodied and material practice.

The presentation makes audible interactions between voices, technologies, and homes, to exemplify some of the infrastructural and affective effects of voice-based technologies. We find that the use of voice-based technologies results in changes in the affective environments of the home, such as by creating uncertainty, harshness and intervening in cultural and temporal enactments of politeness. Moreover, their ability to make voices travel beyond the material confines of the home, renders its boundaries more permeable, thus creating a sense of disempowerment both towards technology and the management of the privacy of the home. We propose the phenomenon of voice and voice-enabled technologies as an interesting topic for socio-gerontechnology research.
Original languageEnglish
Publication date28 Jun 2023
Publication statusPublished - 28 Jun 2023
EventSTS Italia: Interesting Worlds to Come - Italy, Bologna, Italy
Duration: 28 Jun 202330 Jun 2023


ConferenceSTS Italia
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