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The making of a professional digital caregiver: personalisation and friendliness as practices of humanisation


The aim of this paper is to explore how a digital caregiver, developed within a Swedish interdisciplinary research project, is humanised through health-enhancing practices of personalisation and friendliness. The digital caregiver is developed for being used in older patients’ homes to enhance their health. The paper explores how the participants (researchers and user study participants) of the research project navigate through the humanisation of technology in relation to practices of personalisation and friendliness. The participants were involved in a balancing act between making the digital caregiver person-like and friend-like enough to ensure the health of the patient. Simultaneously, trying to make the patients feel like as if they were interacting with someone rather than something—while at the same time not making the digital caregiver seem like a real person or a real friend. This illustrates the participants’ discursive negotiations of the degree of humanisation the digital caregiver needs in order to promote the health of the patient. A discursive conflict was identified between a patient discourse of self-determination versus a healthcare professional discourse of authority and medical responsibility: whether the digital caregiver should follow the patient’s health-related preferences or follow the healthcare professionals’ health rules. Hence, a possible conflict between the patient and the digital caregiver might arise due to different understandings of friendliness and health; between friendliness (humanisation) as a health-enhancing practice governed by the patient or by the healthcare professionals (healthcare professionalism).

  • health care manager
  • medical humanities
  • care of the elderly
  • social anthropology

Data availability statement

Data are available on reasonable request. The data that support the findings of this study are available on request from the corresponding author, JH. The data are not publicly available due to restrictions, for example, containing information that could compromise the privacy of research participants.

This is an open access article distributed in accordance with the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 Unported (CC BY 4.0) license, which permits others to copy, redistribute, remix, transform and build upon this work for any purpose, provided the original work is properly cited, a link to the licence is given, and indication of whether changes were made. See:

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