Department of Sociology

Into the Digital Age: older non-users’ understandings and experiences of digital technologies and how they relate to understandings of aging and old age

Primary investigator: Magdalena Kania-Lundholm

Funding: The Swedish Research Council (Dr nr 2014-6763)

Duration: 2015-2017

Project description: The main goal of this project is to explore older adults’ (dis) engagement with and understandings of digital technologies on the one hand, and the implications that these may have for their understandings of aging and old age on the other. By focusing on these two aspects the project addresses two different scholarly debates, such as one on digital divide and aging, that seldom engage with one another but which will gain new understandings if they were to be cross-fertilized. Older people are often described and represented as rather homogenous group, who run potential risks of remaining excluded from the increasingly digitalized societies. Since the main focus of this project is to understand the subjective and contingent aspects of people’s narratives, the project employs a qualitative design with positioning theory as the main theoretical framework. Method-wise it employs focus group interviews with 30-50 older (65+) adults who are either “non-users” or “narrow users”. The project’s ambition is to generate more knowledge about the diversity of forms and contexts of (dis) engagement with digital technologies and whether understandings of these technologies are informed by understandings of aging and old age. By departing from a nuanced understanding of ICT usage, the project aims to contribute to the scholarly debate that problematizes non-usage not as a problem or deficiency but rather as a spectrum.