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In recent years, there has been a thrust towards bringing robotic and AI technologies into the realm of healthcare, as a tool to respond to impending problems of the ageing society. In this context, aged care is seen as a prime testbed for piloting the practicability of assistance systems able to adapt and learn. Many research and development projects have promised to elaborate and implement assisting artifacts like robots that can provide solutions for independent living in old age and/or for reduction of burdens in nursing practice. These technologies are claimed to assist the elderly in core activities of daily living and help professional caregivers out of the strains resulting from chronic staffing shortages. However, reports assessing the current situation reveal a sobering reality: the use of assistance systems in health and nursing care is still peripheral and the benefit of automation for those in need of help is increasingly doubted.

In relevant research areas (Care Robotics, Science and Technology Studies, Human Computer Interaction/Human Robot Interaction, Computer Supported Cooperative Work, etc.), end-users’ concerns about a technology-driven transformation of care practice have been identified as core problems hindering the diffusion of assistive care technologies. In this context, research on trust has received renewed interest. Trust building in human-machine interactions is increasingly understood as a key factor for making assisting artifacts a part of nursing care. Nevertheless, studies on this issue are confronted with complex conceptual and empirical challenges. In conceptual terms, it is still unclear what is to be understood by ‘trust’, although this is an essential prerequisite for investigating what a ‘trustworthy technology’ is. Moreover, nursing practice face new challenges arising from those conditions which are defined by a quadrate of trust. This is composed of (1) care receivers, (2) caregivers, (3) welfare technology, and (4) organizations like care facilities. Care receivers are vulnerable people who are highly dependent on constant supports through caregivers and welfare devices. Caregivers are obliged to ensure that care receivers achieve health and well-being as well as feel comfortable within a high level of technical mediation of care services. Welfare technology itself must adjust to the changing environments of everyday life and, in this respect, becomes dependent on aid and cooperation by its users. And nursing practice takes place within a context of institutionalized interaction which is subject to organization’s values and decisions.

If we take this complex relational structure into account, the problem is not whether users put trust in technology, but rather whether they trust in a particular socio-technical constellation. For a safe and responsible technology use, it is imperative to establish an enduring trust relationship among participating actors and improve the trustworthiness of assisting technologies as an element of a socio-technical constellation.

Against this background, pressing questions emerge:

  • How can we (re-)conceptualize relational trust in connection with the digitalization in healthcare?
  • Is there a fundamental difference between trust in the sense of ‘reliance on technical functioning’ and trust in human beings and/or socio-technical constellations?
  • How should we understand the quadrate of trust and assess its normative and social implications?
  • What challenges will emerge for nursing practice if assisting artifacts are embedded in the symbolic space of aged care?
  • How will the structure of care relationships be transformed in the course of technology-driven innovation of nursing practice?
  • Can the trustworthiness of assistive care technologies be enhanced by engineering means, and if yes, what do these look like? Is there a need to broaden the scope of user-centered design approach?

The conference aims to explore these topics based on a multidisciplinary exchange and invite contributions from Sociological Trust Research, Nursing Research, Social Robotics, HCI/HRI, Philosophy of Technology, Applied Informatics & Robotics, and other relevant research areas.

The conference was organized within the framework of the research project “PIZ – Nursing Care Innovation Center” funded by the German Ministry for Education and Research (BMBF) under grant number 16SV7819K.

  • Organizers: Hironori Matsuzaki, Gesa Lindemann (University of Oldenburg)
  • Date: February 15/16, 2024
  • Venue: Hanse-Wissenschaftskolleg in Delmenhorst, Delmenhorst, Germany
  • Conference language: English
(Stand: 22.02.2024)  | 
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