How Places Matter. Telecare Technologies and the Changing Spatial Dimensions of Healthcare

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Dominant discourses on telecare technologies often celebrate the erasure of distance and place. This paper provides a critical intervention into these discourses by investigating how spaces still matter, despite the move from physical to virtual encounters between healthcare professionals and patients. I argue that science and technology studies (STS) research on telecare, as well as other technologies, can be enriched by including a focus on place to understand the dynamic interactions between people and things. Adopting insights of human geographers, I show how places in which technologies are used affect how technologies enable or constrain human actions and identities. Whereas some spaces may facilitate the incorporation of technologies, others may resist technologies. A focus on how places matter is important for understanding how telecare technologies reorder and redefine healthcare. Although other healthcare technologies are also important actors in transforming healthcare, telecare technologies do this in a very specific way: they redefine the spatial dimensions of healthcare. To capture and further explore this changing spatial configuration of healthcare, I introduce the notion of technogeography of care. This concept provides a useful heuristic to study how places matter in healthcare. Although telecare technologies introduce virtual encounters between healthcare providers and patients, the use of telecare devices still largely depends on locally grounded, situated care acts. Based on interviews with users of several cardiac telecare applications, including healthcare professionals and patients in Germany and the Netherlands, the paper shows how patients’ homes and public spaces are important for shaping the implementation and use of telecare technologies, and vice versa. Last, but not least, telecare devices are implicated as well. The paper emphasizes the place-dependency of the use and meaning of technical devices by showing how the same technological device can do and mean different things in different places
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)121-142
JournalSocial studies of science
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2012


  • IR-81688
  • METIS-284092


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