Digital Ageism: How it operates and approaches to tackling it, is publication number 56 in the Routledge Studies in New Media and Cyberculture series. Edited by Andrea Rosales, Mireia Fernández-Ardèvol and Jakob Svensson, the book aims to create awareness about how ageism operates in society, while contributing to a broad discussion about digital ageism. This is an open access publication thanks to funding from Malmö University and can be downloaded here.
I came across the collection during the 2023 Annual Meeting of the Socio-gerontechnology Network, which I attended in September (read this short report).
The book opens with an editorial, beginning with a discussion around the inevitability of digital technology, followed by a section on ageism with particular focus on digital ageism, and closing with a description of how such concepts are related to the rest of the book.
In the 13 chapters that follow, the contributing authors describe a host of approaches and research sites, touching upon an impressive array of topics and developing an analytical framework that reflects the first chapter’s focus on three different but interrelated dimensions of ageing and ageism: ageing as a social construction, ageism within the design process and ageism at the symbolic level.
Within these categories and what we might see as a dimensions of digital ageism framework, the authors signal several critical points derived from their research and fieldwork. I attempt to group them below, although many of them could be found within more than one category:
Ageing as a social construction: The role of media ideologies; visual forms of ageism found in advertising and promotion strategies; collective narratives on social media; self-ageism; the ‘we/them’ distinction.
Ageism within the design process: Older people are not represented in research or are seen as frail and in terms of deficiency and decline; broad age groupings in research leads to loss of data and a false view of homogeneity amongst the population; presumptions made about older people’s interests when designing research can reproduce ageism.
Ageism at symbolic level: Gender-based forms of ageism; Intersections between age, gender, education, skills developed and female emancipation; responses to ageist stereotypes; coping with the practicalities of ageism in daily life.
These themes come to the fore through an enticing range of questions raised in various different situations.
The interesting field sites and topics for investigation lead to lots of findings and discussions, including around oppression and discrimination in Silicon Valley, the role of hippy and counterculture in technological development, inclusion and exclusion within older age mobility, the advantages and possible pitfalls of using digital storytelling in sheltered housing and how actor network theory can contribute to understanding relationships between objects (technology) and their users.
This is a well written, easy to read book that offers both critique and an overview of an array of approaches and ideas within this specific field. The chapters stand alone and can be read in any order. Much of the research described is fieldwork based, offering the reader quite personal accounts of strategies and experiences from both participant and researcher perspectives. Other chapters summarize and put previous research into context, offering the reader literature and background understanding of this interesting and extremely relevant field.
An ideal, informative and enjoyable read.