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Caleb Johnston

Companion Robotics

Rather than a spatial fix of relocating dementia care to the global south, this current research examines how automation and robotisation is being implemented and imagined as a salve to a systemic labour shortage of care workers in the global north.

Through expert interviews with roboticists, tech companies, and local government providers of social care in the UK, the work seeks to better understand the political economy of new robot technologies, how digitization is driving the financialization of our health care data, and how automation is radically reconfiguring existing care practices and possibly reinforcing gendered and racialized care labour.

This work began by examining the development and deployment of social robots in UK to address care shortages and an epidemic of loneliness:

(2023) Robots and care of the aging private self. Environment and Planning A 55, 8, pp. 2051-2066.

(2023) In the wake of the pandemic, reworking the labors of care: A conversation between Cindi Katz, Caleb Johnston and Geraldine Pratt. In Working Future, edited by D Eisenburg and E Rothenberg. University of Chicago Press.

Recently, we’ve been documenting emerging partnerships between local UK authorities and private technology companies. The focus has been to understand how the UK’s social care infrastructure is being radically reimagined through different technologies. Who will deliver caring futures in the UK? Who is absorbing the fiscal risk of technological innovation? Who is profiting? And what are the limits of technology as a response to our care crisis?

(2024) Automating adult social care in the UK: Extracting value from a crisis. Geoforum, epub ahead of publication.