Carla Greubel

Towards a “politics of what” – Valuing the good later life in active and healthy ageing innovations

Copernicus Institute of Sustainable Development, Section Innovation Studies, Faculty of Geosciences, Utrecht University,

Supervisors: Prof. dr. Ellen Moors, Dr. ir. Alexander Peine


I obtained my BSc in Socioeconomics from the University of Economics and Business in Vienna. Intrigued by the sociology of care work and social robotics for the elderly, I did my Master in European Studies on Society, Science and Technology (ESST) at Maastricht University (cum laude). In my MA thesis, supervised by Prof. dr. Karin Bijsterveld, I did an ethnographic study on the everyday sounds of technology in three residential care homes for the elderly in Germany. The thesis was awarded one of the Maastricht University Student Prizes 2018; I will publish an article from the thesis in Anthropology & Aging (forthcoming, March 2020).

Summary PhD Project

Ensuring a good later life for our ageing populations is the goal behind many innovations targeted at active and healthy ageing. But what is good ageing/later life?
Inspired by research within the social studies of science and technology, this PhD study seeks to approach the good in later life not as a universal concept, but as one that is embodied in material-discursive practices of valuing. Values and the material discursive practices in which they come to matter, then, are nothing pregiven, singular, or static, but configured and configuring, multiple and political, dynamic and entangled.
Es part of the EU’s emphasis on Responsible Research and Innovation (RRI), social scientist and humanities scholars are called upon to study the values of older people to better align them with the technologies being developed. However, this has also raised concerns about the possibilities for meaningful inter- and transdisciplinary deliberation about the good later life that are created by the broader economic and political context, the material design of technologies, and the specific participation methods employed in RRI. The critical question then becomes: What conditions for a politics of what are created as part of the material
discursive practices in active and healthy ageing innovation projects, and in the use (or non-use) of these innovations within the everyday lives of elderly citizens?
I will study this question within the H2020 financed Large Scale Pilot Project GATEKEEPER, both with ethnographic fieldwork in the lives of elderly participants and
through qualitative interviews and participant observation of valuing practices in stakeholder participation and co-creation processes.
This PhD study is part of a research project at Utrecht University, led by dr. Alexander Peine, where the goal is to develop an STS informed RRI framework for mapping dynamic values in the co-creation of health and ageing innovations.


Peer-reviewed article accepted for publication in Anthropology & Aging, will be published in March 2020:
Greubel, C. (forthcoming). Caring through Sound and Silence: Technology and the Sound of Everyday Life in Homes for the Elderly