IEEE Technology and Society Magazine - Summer 2014 - 75

U.S. NIH/pUblIC DOMAIN

research on cochlear implants
has not only examined how the
CI improves people's ability to
hear speech, but also how a CI
makes a difference to social life,
for instance by increasing social
participation [13] and reducing
anxiety [14]. Additionally, scholars
have paid attention to the concerns,
mentioned earlier, about Deaf
people losing their Deaf identity
[1]. rarely has research focused
on what a CI means to individuals, i.e., how they understand it
and feel about it, and how the technology is incorporated into one's
everyday life. Wheeler, Archbold,
Gregory, and Skipp are an exception to this, examining how young
individuals experience their CI
[15]. The young CI users perceived
their implant as essential, but they
were not acquainted with the technological details of the CIs. They
recognized their internal deafness,
as without CI they would not be
able to hear, but were not affiliated
with Deaf culture [15]. While the
rFID and CI studies differ widely,
and range from surveys to N=1
case studies, they are, by and large,
descriptive (e.g., [7], [9]. These
studies also ignore how implantees
make their chips meaningful as part
of their body, and how the implants
become part of their everyday life
and their identity. This latter element of integrating technology into
one's daily routines and rituals has
been described in science and technology studies as the "domestication of technology." It is a useful
approach for our study of implants
because it has the capacity to show
how the same piece of technology
(an implant) can acquire different
meanings, depending on individual
and social contexts.
The domestication approach
assumes that technological artifacts are more than simple objects,
and that they are also "texts" that
evoke interpretations rooted in
institutional, cultural, economical, and political factors [16].
Through an ongoing process of

Cochlear implant.

giving meaning to a technological
artefact, users incorporate their
implant into their lives and in this
sense "domesticate" it. This notion
of the domestication of technology
literally refers to the "taming" of a
"wild" technology into the home.
The domestication approach
uncovers the process of becoming
familiar with an object and leads
to an understanding of what happens when someone takes a technology "home" [17], [18]. It focuses
on different stages and settings of
meaning making (appropriation,
objectification, incorporation, and
conversion). The approach looks at
skills and practices that are learned
and adopted, at the compatibility
of these technologies with existing habits and rituals, and at contestations that may emerge in the
process. Finally, the approach
examines whether and how domesticated technologies become part
of the performance of self and,
more profoundly, of an identity for
the individual [19], [20]. Thus, this
approach goes beyond motivations

IEEE TECHNOLOGY AND SOCIETY MAGAZINE

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SuMMEr 2014

or "use" alone. It focuses on context and on generated meanings -
on "what people are trying to 'do'
with their technology" [21, p. 314].
rather than a linear, finite process
or a one-off event, meaning-making
is an ongoing process. People continually reshape their relationship
with the technology and their sense
of what it means [22].

Method
In domestication research, it is
important to understand data within
its generated context [23]. Qualitative data provides in-depth and situated knowledge. Therefore we chose
to conduct semi-structured interviews with implantees (N=21) We
found rFID implantees through the
network of Amal Graafstra, who is
a leading DIY chipper , and by contacting people who indicated somewhere online that they have a rFID
implant (e.g., YouTube) (N=8). By
placing a call on a forum for CI users,
we found people with a CI implant
who were willing to share their experiences with us (N=13).
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