Structuring the management of vulnerable people with technology: the role of “educommunication”

Since 2007 I have been studying the role of technology in the management of disabilities and more specifically intellectual disabilities. In 2011, I carried out a doctoral research in information science and communication which was entitled “Uses and socio practices (re) éducommunicationnels for people with mental disabilities. Computer and Internet media tools” in which I studied access, ownership and use of computers and the Internet by and for people with intellectual disabilities accommodated in specialized institutions in France.

At the time, there was no work on this subject carried out in France and I saw a real need and a facility to be accepted into these schools, yet historically categorized as “closed environments”.

I note that since the beginning of my research, the issue of technology in support of vulnerable people has constantly arise. Indeed, voluntarily or not, professional practices in medical social work are affected by these technologies. Institutions face a social demand of the users that they can not ignore or more, that of access to communication tools and digital information.

Today, as part of a research project whose acronym is “Nuserus” i.e. “digital technologies for passenger services in the social and medico-social (2015-2019)” our research team (Institute of communication sciences, IRSIC the Aix-Marseille University and the laboratory community Media information Mediations, I3M the University of Nice Sophia Antipolis) has the objective of classifying and describing these uses and technological opportunities in future to develop social institutions and services and medical social (ESSMS) as desirable cooperation among professionals in the social, health, researchers and developers of digital technologies. We offer three-year (2015-2018) action research in eight settlements in the Provence-Alpes-Cote d’Azur in France. The challenge and originality of the project is to analyze current socio-technical devices and become the service of the user, this from a perspective of intramural training of professionals. The eight institutions welcome a heterogeneous public, children, adolescents, adults with intellectual disabilities, intellectual disabilities or mental illness but also people in high social vulnerability and the elderly.

I think to understand, evaluate and develop the uses and technology practices for vulnerable people, it is to integrate them into breasts life course of individuals. It seems to me impossible to reduce them to a specific professional group of medical social work or a type of institution in user profile. The challenge is to capture the activity of support with technology in a broad sense, that is to say, regardless the type of object and their combination in a logical omniconsommatrice: assistive technology, technical assistance, communication with technology, digital technology, information technology and communication for education, etc.

Since the beginning of my work, I draw three main conclusions and work paths for the future:

1. In the field of medical social work, any type of professional may need to use technology whether for medical purposes (eg are emerging e-consultation mechanisms, that is to say, remote consultation by videoconference); rehabilitative (the important place there is para-medical professionals such as physiotherapists, occupational therapists and speech therapists); school (what we call in France specialized education) or educational (to put it quickly, supporting autonomy, develop skills of know-how and skills). Technology training so concerned accordingly itself as all types of professionals and it is urgent to work in this direction.

2. There is no regularity between type of disability and uses of technology which leads us to defend thinking in terms of a reflection in terms of cognitive skills and not in terms of type of disability.

3. Via the technological mediation, medical social workers (whatever their profession) are developing a new éducommunicationnelle competence, professionalism vector and identity positioning, with impacts in terms of quality of service and quality of life for both professionals and those admitted in specialized institution.

Indeed, educommunication is a form of neologism consisting of “education” and “communication”. Beyond the symbolic alliance he represents, it carries a new meaning because it is not the simple juxtaposition of communicational and educational practices. It not only illustrates the interrelationships and links to interdependencies between “education” and “communication” but it also opens up a new paradigm, that is to say, a new epistemology with new forms and standards of shares.

We can define educommunication as all the influences of the communication from the environment of an individual (that is to say subjects but objects), which can be exercised on him during his life and guides its representations (attitudes) and actions (behavior) with particular attention to the link between ideas and actions, and vice versa.

Today, our lines of work around the role of technology within schools are well structured:

(1) Information sharing is too difficult to implement (as examples, big and small datas, single file, digital safe);
(2) The responsibility for the establishment and ethical positioning are not sufficiently thought out by the institutions (legal developments facing these technologies, including digital, which fall within the institutions);
(3) The impact of technology on interpersonal relationship is poorly understood as they often jostle professional practices (attempting account of cognitive science with a reflection on the positive or benevolent communication);
(4) The impact of technology on professional practices and their potential value added is part of an evaluation culture in which professionals do not adhere or little (structuring issues of training and occupations around technology, self-determination and individual empowerment and citizen).

To summarize, share best practices, build and structure the medical and social intervention field for the vulnerable is paramount and we believe educommunication can contribute.

 By Audrey Bonjour, ENTELIS Partner IFRATH