Transformation of communication practices : a case study of older adults' participation in the information society

Barnett, Karen Rae (2002) Transformation of communication practices : a case study of older adults' participation in the information society. PhD thesis, Queensland University of Technology.

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Abstract

The info1mation society marks a shift from the dominance of the industrial to the rise of the "informational" (Castells, 1996, p. 21 ). The effects of this shift on social arrangements generally have been greeted in diverse ways, ranging from the enthusiasm of Negroponte (1995) to the more cautious scepticism of Postman (1992). While recognised as an inevitable and ongoing process, the wider social imperatives for change have brought people and technology together in ways that are often highly problematic. Older people, as one group among others identified as experiencing the disadvantage in the information society, face challenges of adaptation to a new form of literacy and communicative practice. A large body of research is developing to investigate the needs of older people in the new information society, yet little of this focuses on the full complexity of relationships that exist between the wider institution of communication technologies and the management of these changes in everyday places. Everyday, mundane activities of older people, as they interface with the discourses and practices of the information society, are, therefore, prioritised in this qualitative study. A purposively structured case study applies Bourdieu's concepts of field and habitus (Bourdieu, 1990) in an ethnomethodological investigation. Levels of social phenomena representative of the field in the context of older people's experiences are assembled in the case study. Qualitative methods of data collection bring three elements of the field together. Firstly, discourses of the digital divide set the contextual scene for examining persuasions towards computer literacy for older people. Then observations in settings for older learners provide information about building computer competencies. In addition, interviews with geographically dispersed older people allow a range of users, from novices to experts, to contribute to the study. Data analysis based on the dramaturgical perspective of Goffman (1973a, 1973b) and the grammar of motives advocated by Burke (1969a) produce an interpretive ethnography in which older people's strategies and motives are revealed. The thesis finds that within the full set of relationships in the field of older people's use of ICT, a complex network of influences operates as discursive and interactive strategies. Motives implied in discourses of the digital divide direct attention towards the field of ICT and the settings of older people's active engagement with information and communication technologies. Within such settings a range of dispositions towards technology become obvious. These dispositions are critically important to the ways in which technology is integrated into everyday practices of individuals. In a field of opportunities and constraints computer technology is involved in creating particular communities of interest. Practices with technology promote self-esteem, secure networks of friendship, and connect the person within the home to the world beyond in real and virtual ways. The case study effectively describes the field of older people's engagement with computer technology as a microcosm of strategic everyday practices, a contingent set of experiences that enjoin older people with the process of change to an information society.

Impact and interest:

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ID Code: 36407
Item Type: QUT Thesis (PhD)
Supervisor: Adkins, Barbara & Buys, Elinor
Additional Information: Presented to the Centre for Community and Cross-Cultural Studies, School of Humanities and Social Science, Queensland University of Technology.
Keywords: Older people Communication, Technology and older people, Computers and older people, social studies of technology, social change, information society, digital divide, technology, computerisation, computers, older adults, seniors, education, social theory, field, social space, habitus, networks of relationships, strategies of practice, motives, case study, micro sociology, qualitative research methods, ethnomethodology, ethnography, interaction, discourse, rhetoric, grammar of motives, qualitative analysis, communities of interest, everyday settings, virtual mobility, domestic space, thesis, doctoral
Institution: Queensland University of Technology
Copyright Owner: Copyright Karen Rae Barnett
Deposited On: 22 Sep 2010 13:05
Last Modified: 21 Jun 2017 01:09

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