Biopolitics and technoscience and society


Research Proposal 4.   Biopolitics, technoscience and society


Research Group

The socio-technical constitution of old age: critical studies of aging and technology.
Industrialized societies in the twenty-first century are shaped by two intertwined transformations: the technological one and the demographic transformation of the ageing societies (Peine et al., 2014). The economic, cultural, political and social challenges associated with the latter are stimulating the emergence of all sorts of new gero-technologies. Robots and IA systems are implemented in long-term care to provide more personalized and "efficient" care at home and in nursing homes (López, 2015; Schwennesen, 2019). New digital media developments targeting the most aged are proliferating to reduce loneliness and strengthen social connectivity and participation in later life and thereby promote "healthy and active ageing" (López, Beneito-Montagut, García-Santesmases, 2021). Built environments and basic infrastructures such as transport systems are not only “smarter” but more “age-friendly”. Houses, nursing homes, and urban environments are re-designed to better respond to the future needs of older people, which will be more pressing, manyfold and changing in the years to come. All these technological developments pose questions about the nature of old age and its relationship with science and technologies. It is more evident than ever that later life is a socio-technical construct (Joyce and Loe 2010; Moreira 2017; Peine and Neven 2018). Moreover, we cannot understand the current ageless conceptions of old age without considering the influence of biomedical technologies in the prevention of neurodegenerative disorders or frailty reduction and the emergence of anti-ageing medicine and wellness products and services (Katz 200; Lassen and Moreira 20014; Katz and Marshall 2018; Lamb 2019).     
We welcome PhD proposals that seek to explore the socio-technical construction of old age in the development and implementation of technologies for the future of ageing societies (see Peine, Marshall, Martin& Neven, 2021). We are also interested in a critical exploration of the ageing futures that these technologies seek to materialize and how these ageing futures are made present and shape the technological transformation of our societies. Who is included or excluded in these ageing futures, and for whom are these good or bad futures?  



Dr. Daniel López Gómez 






Technological mediation in the experience of grief and the end of life.

The objective of this thesis is to study how new technologies intervene in the experience of people who are bereaved or who are approaching end of life. There are more and more tools made available to these groups to try to cope with these essential moments of life. For example, it is the case of tools such as Story Shell (Moncur & Julius, 2015) and ReFind (Wallace et al., 2021), both intended for bereaved people and whose objective is, to some extent, to make possible the so called “continuing bonds” with the deceased loved one (see Silverman, Klass & Nickman, 1996). Thus, while Story Shell focuses on helping the bereaved to build a memorial (either physical or conceptual) to their deceased loved one, ReFind supposedly enables the bereaved to re-explore the relationship with their deceased loved one, giving to this new relationship new meanings. Thus, the objective of this thesis is to explore the characteristics of this mediation (context, actors, actions, etc.) and also how they also contribute to building, beyond the relationship established with others, different types of subjectivities.

Dr. Belén Jiménez Alonso









Governing and living with chronic living conditions in technological societies: What practices, infrastructures and ethics of care?
The rise of long-term care needs associated with the chronification of diseases and rapid ageing in post-industrial societies is challenging care policies, practices and institutions. New technological care infrastructures (telecare, e-Health, self-tracking technologies, assistive technologies, etc.) are marketed as enabling those who already live or will likely live with 'chronic' conditions to self-manage their health in a way that reinforces their autonomy and generates more personalized and ubiquitous care and support.
We aim to better understand how these care infrastructures shape the experience of caring for and living with chronic conditions (for instance, dementia, autoimmune conditions such as type 1 diabetes or rheumatoid arthritis [RA], heart disease, and obesity). We are also interested in exploring how people living with these conditions manipulate these infrastructures, even producing DIY solutions and new care arrangements, and how the resulting changes affect their conditions.
We welcome qualitative research proposals that aim to critically analyse the social consequences of these new care arrangements in self-managing chronic conditions. Proposals could revolve around the following questions: How are care practices reshaped? What are the ethical implications in terms of what counts as good and bad care? What are the new definitions for patients, well-being, health, independence and autonomy when reshaped by these care infrastructures? What are the subjective as well as relational consequences of these changes for professional caregivers (doctors, nurses, social workers) and non-professionals (usually relatives)? 








Critical Studies in Risk and Disasters.

Drawing on the conceptual and methodological work done by STS and techno-feminist approaches, this subline of research interrogates the more naturalized, technology-driven and accelerated approaches to disasters, crises and emergencies. By using ethnography and participatory methods, we aim to make visible, engage and think with undervalued and minimized voices, geographies, temporalities, and intersections in disasters, crises and emergency situations. We also pay special attention to the social dimensions and public contestations of new digital arrangements and infrastructures for disaster risk reduction and disaster management. What is the actual role of these technologies in the (re)shaping practices, norms and cultures of preparedness and resilience? How do they intervene in the (re)configuration of disasters among policymakers, responders and/or communities?


Dr. Israel Rodríguez-Giralt  




The innovation ideology.

The focus on innovation is pervasive in contemporary societies. Most institutions – particularly companies, but also public administrations and universities – have explicitly included innovation in their strategic plans and their missions. Many of them have even restructured themselves and built new units in order to make innovation their main driver and goal. Innovation has become both a buzzword and a God term. However the innovation imperative is not neutral. It fosters a very particular vision of technology and specific ways to fit it in society; it also shows clear neoliberal traits; and it is severely damaging many social institutions. We seek PhD students willing to carry out research – using mainly STS (science and technology studies) concepts and theoretical frameworks – on one of the following areas: (a) the roots of this ideology and its links to social and political stances; (b) the way it has spread to specific institutions, particularly universities, and how it has changed them; or (c) the specific vision of technology it is based on.



Dr. Eduard Aibar





Technology, politics and society. Psychopolitics in the 21st Century.
How are governance and social management shaped today? The recent SARS-CoV-2 pandemic, the rise of smart devices, the importance of algorithms, and datafication are some of the elements that underpin contemporary social management. This research proposal aims to inquire into these issues from the perspective of biopolitical conceptions and their new developments, as well as their sociotechnical effects on government and local practices.
Dr. Enrique Baleriola Escudero