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Friday, June 9 • 2:10pm - 2:30pm
Community for Community-Based Caregivers: Designing Technology for the Collective Mobilization of Home Care Workers

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“Without community, there is no liberation” - Audre Lorde

Home care workers (HCWs) embody the power of the community but are themselves bereft of the same care they give to others. HCWs help people with disabilities to remain in the community and not “disappear again after a history of segregation and institutionalization” (Wong, 2022). However, HCWs and people with disabilities also demonstrate “interdependence,” bound together by shared vulnerability, as HCWs’ “skills and labor … need to be acknowledged in real (economic) and intangible (cultural) terms” (Wong, 2022). Due to low hourly wage and inconsistent hours, HCWs are also on welfare and living below the federal poverty level (PHI, 2022). In addition, high physical and emotional burden (Stacey, 2011) result in home care being seen as “jobs of last resort” left to women of color and immigrants (Glenn, 2010).

Prior literature has demonstrated the potential power of community for social justice through technology design that subverts the existing structures of oppression. Traditionally, the technology that shapes and regulates the work of HCWs focuses on compliance (Okeke et al., 2019) and ultimately puts both the worker and their clients under surveillance (Mateescu, 2021). However, through frameworks like participatory design (Bødker & Kyng, 2018) and workers’ data rights (Colclough, 2022), workplace technology can be designed in opposition to how they are typically designed (Khovanskaya, 2021).The design could create more community (Le Dantec, 2016). Ordinarily, HCWs are isolated. Computer-mediated communication could build communities of practice, where HCWs are able to find support for performing the emotional labor of home care work (Poon et al., 2021).

We are working closely with a union-affiliated, grassroots organization to explore the issue of wage theft and the potential role technology could play. Currently, we have interviewed workers, labor experts, and legal experts to understand the problem space and held co-design sessions with workers to provoke conversation about potential initiatives. We explored key questions around how to make the process the least additional burden, hold employers accountable, and establish trust with sensitive data. By the conference, we will have run a few iterations of experiments to understand questions around individual adoption of technology, relational impacts between the stakeholders, and potential institutional-level changes (Wolf et al., 2022).

We explore this idea of community and liberation through critical making. Firstly, we focus on the process of community-driven design itself. Our research design challenges the status quo while carefully balancing the prefigurative future (Asad, 2019) and the tangible present (Raval, 2021), the centering of voices of the community as experts of their circumstances (Asad, 2019) and placing undue burden on the oppressed to design and enact solutions for their liberation (Harrington et al., 2019). Moreover, we highlight the power of information and action on a collective scale. Finally, we explore how empowering HCWs can in turn move us to a future of a “beloved community” (King et al., 2010) where we “save each other” (Piepzna-Samarasinha, 2018) and care is not at the margins.

avatar for Joy Ming

Joy Ming

PhD Student, Cornell University

Friday June 9, 2023 2:10pm - 2:30pm EDT
ARC E-13