Universtity of Copenhagen, Denmark
The complexity of the emerging digital media environment inevitably raises questions about digital literacy and social inequality. However, a major shortcoming of the existing research on digital inequality in later life is that it tells us little to nothing about how and why media actually matters to different older people and how this intersects with dis- or empowerment in later life and social segmentation. The way people use (digital) media in everyday life therefore constitutes a critical access-point to the study of differences in ageing as well as to the study of what literacy - or the lack of such - actually means to different people. My research is based on the assumption that people’s access to (and use of) media is integral to the power relations of current social and cultural transformations. In order to contribute to user-centered and practice-based understandings of why and how media matters to older people I take an explorative bottom-up approach to the question of how mediated communication structures the social life of older people with different backgrounds. I do so by analyzing how people’s media life histories - ranging from letters to texts, from phone calls to video messages - interlink with the participation in private and public social networks. The analysis focuses on the meaning of the everyday media ensemble for social participation by looking into material, emotional and rational aspects of the media use. In my presentation I will elaborate on my method, the results of the study, and discuss the implication for ageing studies in modern society.