Piss Perfect: Privacy in Continence Care

On October 27th, 2019, I gave a talk at privacy week. I will edit this post to insert a static video once it is up. Until then, have a look at my slides and the abstract.

With 50% of residents in nursing homes classified as incontinent, continence care is an area in which technological development is hailed as the solution to declining numbers of carers–with deeply troubling consequences for carers’ and residents’ privacy alike.


Ideal continence care is framed around concepts of dignity–for residents as well as carers. This stands in a stark contrast to hierarchical surveillance structures present in the sociotechnical context of nursing homes. Technological development is mandated by governments and managers, rarely with consideration for residents’ or carers’ perspectives. Drawing on a case study from interviews and observations in a Flemish nursing home, I will detail how technology in this space ends up perpetuating these hierarchies, creating a continence panopticon which is deeply rooted in surveillance practices and, ultimately, distrust.

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