Elderly women on Digital Era-Barcelona City.
Within ‘western’ society, Information Communication Technologies (ICT) have become an intrinsic part of ordinary life: in domains such as the home, work place and schools, there is an increasing dependency on digital information technology. These technologies are used by both the young and the middle aged, all of whom are developing new skills to use on multiple platforms both in and outside the home. However it is often the young who have more quickly and easily developed interactive abilities, in part because a lot of platforms have been designed for youth entertainment e.g. Social Networking Sites. The elderly as a social group have not been developing comparable ICT skills. The generational divide has also become a digital one. The objective of my research is to examine the ICT engagement of specific groups of elderly women in Barcelona City taking into account their usage, habits and abilities. Women of this generation often have had no contact with ICT ́s and exert resistance and rejection when they have the opportunity to participate in technologically related activities. I will analyze their approaches to ICT ́s (Internet, PC, television and mobile phone) to try and understand the implications of them engaging with ICTs and the attitudes facing them. My research question is: How elderly women are facing the technological shift and how do they handle the ‘digital divide’? This study focuses on elderly women in Barcelona because: • More than 50% of the female population are 65 to 85 years old (Data from the National Institute of Statistics INE, 2008). • The phenomenon of an ‘Aging Society’ in European countries is increasing. The number of elderly people in Europe in 1960 will have doubled by 2020 (EU, Information Society Commission, 2007) • Society discriminates against elderly women on the basis of gender, age and poverty The research will be case-study based using both qualitative and quantitative methods including an ethnographic approach with semistructured interviews to incorporate aspects such as: family, work, activities, use of the Internet, terrestrial digital television (TDT) and mobile phones. The two theoretical approaches I will draw upon are: the ‘Uses and Gratifications’ theory (Katz, Blumer and Gurevitch, 1974) and cultural studies (Curran, Morley and Walkerdine, 1996). ‘Uses and Gratifications’ theory considers users as active individuals. In this context, ICTs and media selection can be seen to either satisfy a necessity, to strengthen social links, for information or for entertainment purposes. This is also one of the most important concerns when considering that this collective group of individuals has deeply rooted problems such as social isolation, loneliness and social marginalization. Applying an ethnographic approach in relation to cultural studies, certain aspects related to the object of study need to be involved. This research will, consequently, use evidence gathered by observing specific cases, giving details and collecting narratives in order to learn the previous and current lifestyle of the studied group of people, taking into account the habits of their everyday lives. In alignment with general societal trends in Spain, La Caixa Foundation is promoting an active role for elderly people. Since 1997, la Obra Social ‘la Caixa’ (La Caixa’s Social Programme), in agreement with government agencies, has opened centres throughout Catalunya. Currently there are also 407 ciberaulas (clubs offering training in ICTs) with more than 200,000 members (membership fees are 8 Euros per year) having received ICTs training. Poble Nou ́s Ciberaula in Barcelona has two rooms, in each area is a Ciberaula employee, a ‘monitor’ who helps the elderly with any problems using the computers. I propose to work with two groups, comparing their ICT skills: Group 1 consisting of elderly women who have not taken any of the ‘ciberaula’ ICT training courses and Group 2 consisting of those who have taken them. I will answer my research questions by studying the processes, motivations, resistances and contexts in which the elderly female participants attempt to join the ‘Information Society’.