688.7 Elderly and computer: The Russian regional perspective

Saturday, August 4, 2012: 12:00 AM
Faculty of Economics, TBA
Distributed Paper
Olga SERGEYEVA , Sociology Department, Volgograd State University, Volgograd, Russia
This paper explores computer literacy among elderly in the case of Russia (This project “Elderly People and Computer: the Volgograd regional perspective” is funded Russian Foundation for Humanities). There has not been much literature among Russian sociologists on how old people interact with computer systems and use them in their every-day life. Ageist views have typically held that older people are poor, frail, and resistant to change. Ageism can be a considerable factor affecting the adoption of new technologies by elderly. I undertook a two-year sociological study aimed at revealing and explaining a real life computing. I describe and discuss the nature of home computer use in terms of Actor Network Theory (ANT). I argue that the terms “trial” and “socio-technological assemblage” are useful tools for describing practices in which older people create new everyday life by adopting computer.

I then turn to feminist technology studies, which offer feasible conceptual frameworks and methods for exploring the production of technology as a point of political leverage. I consider ageism and technology as having a reciprocal influence on one another. Series of in-depth interviews reveal how older Russians are becoming a part of the computer communities. Older people living in Russia have high literacy level in general terms as the phenomenon of “Soviet educational project”. I uncover and explain the importance of several interaction barriers, such as cognitive load, relationship with other relatives who can act as “warm specialists”, media discourse of aging in Russia.

The modernist association of technology with youth translates into everyday experiences of age, education and the design of new technologies. I suggest coining the term “technoageism” to describe the cultural animus against people on the basis of their years.