Angelina Chin is Associate Professor of History at Pomona College. She received her Ph.D. in History (Feminist Studies) from UC Santa Cruz in 2006. Her research interests revolve around transformations of urban identity and citizenship, as well as transregional connections in China and Japan. Her 2012 book Bound to Emancipate: Working Women and Urban Citizenship in Early Twentieth-Century China and Hong Kong (Rowman & Littlefield), explores the concept of “women’s emancipation” in South China as well as new concerns about identity, consumption, governance and mobility. Her second book project is about displaced people who were in limbo in Hong Kong and Taiwan in the 1950s and 1970s. Currently, she is working on a project on the development of assistive technologies for disabled and elderly people in China and Japan.
I am applying for an Abe Fellowship to compare the recent development of assistive devices and technologies for elderly and disabled people in Japan and the PRC and investigate the implications of such development for both societies. Both the PRC and Japanese governments are committed to using robots and AI technologies to solve the labor shortage in the care industry. Assistive technologies have the potential to solve many of the problems posed by the aging population. Yet, the solution also raises new ethical, social and cultural concerns about the future society. The proposed research will explore five aspects of assistive technologies. The first aspect asks what motivated the national governments of Japan and the PRC to promote the research and development of AI technologies and robotics in the areas of care and rehabilitation for the elderly and the disabled? For this question, we need to trace it back to the rising awareness among disabled people. The second aspect explores the implications of using technology to transcend the limitations of the human bodies. The original intended functions of most assistive technologies were to reduce impairment effects and to allow people who have mobility problems to participate more fully in social life. Some of the more recent assistive technologies have the potential to go beyond such expectations, altering the conditions of the disability so that users can function like "able-bodied" people or even become "super-bodies" that exceed "able-bodied" capabilities by combining them with machines. The third aspect of this project is the affordability of these new technologies. How widely are such technologies available in both countries? Are the technologies mainly for facilities and hospitals or are they also intended for personal use? Do the national insurance networks subsidies cover the rental costs of the high-end products? Do poor people have access to them? The fourth aspect is about the relationship between environment and technologies. How can the more advanced assistive technologies be deployed in conjunction with environmental designs and more traditional devices so that a more equitable society can be created? The preparation work for the Tokyo Paralympics in 2020 and the Beijing Winter Paralympics in 2022 will provide important case studies in understanding the visions of the municipal governments and private contractors to further create an inclusive future society. The assistive devices developed in the past decade generally serve three different functions: (1) to help the users rehabilitate; (2) to extend their capabilities so that they can function like "able" bodies; and (3) to replace some of the nursing tasks of the caregivers. The fifth aspect of this research concerns the third function of the assistive technologies: How do high-tech assistive technologies change the relationship between the users and their primary caregivers? How will the definition of "caregiving" change when human care givers are replaced by robotic devices? This project will examine how advanced assistive technologies affect the roles of the users' immediate family members and the care workers in the facilities.