Norwegian version

Virtual Presence: A cultural analysis of the emergence of 'telepresence technologies' as a solution to loneliness

The research project will provide a cultural analysis of how loneliness is perceived and represented in relation to the emerging phenomenon of loneliness technologies

Loneliness is emerging as a significant challenge in contemporary society. Understanding loneliness as a complex interplay of culture and personal choices across social contexts is crucial to create adequate interventions related to this challenge. The majority of research on loneliness comes from the medical field, statistically demonstrating the health-related effects of being alone or isolated. However, there is a need to expand on this understanding and explore loneliness as a more complex social phenomenon.

 

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      To improve future interventions, the research project will provide a cultural analysis of how loneliness is perceived and represented in relation to the emerging phenomenon of loneliness technologies. Technology is especially interesting when we talk about loneliness because it is claimed to both alleviate the problem and worsen it. Specifically we will zoom in on two such loneliness technologies—AV1 and KOMP—developed by the Norwegian start-up company No Isolation. AV1 is a classroom robot for children who are isolated because of long-term illness, whereas KOMP is a communication tool for the elderly. By exploring these technologies through the perspectives of users, producers and policy makers, we will elaborate on the complex interrelationship between culture, loneliness and technology in digital society, aiming at enabling better solutions to contemporary problems of loneliness.

      The research project uses a comprehensive triangulating approach, combining field interviews, participant observations and document analysis, to develop a novel theoretical framework for analysing loneliness and its technological solutions. Combining a range of cultural-analytical perspectives, the project questions fundamental assumptions about loneliness and technology in digital society, and offers revised understandings that are relevant to entrepreneurs, policy makers, educators and the broader public.

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