Theorizing the Aging Self as Data Using Autoethnography

Ros Jennings (University of Gloucestershire) & Hannah Grist (University of Bristol)

This presentation opens up questions about the nature of data in relation to age and ageing. To do so it concentrates on method and, more especially, the types of data that are produced through autoethnographic approaches to age, ageing and intergenerationality. In our previous individual, collaborative and intergenerational autoethnographic work (Jennings and Grist, 2020; Ferris-Taylor, Grant, Grist, Jennings, Rosselson and Wiseman, 2019; Jennings, 2019) we have explored the possibilities of autoethnography as a method to interrogate some of the cultural experiences of ageing. In this exploration we now move our focus and consider ways that autoethnographic data might be questioned and understood and, more especially, and how autoethnographic data might offer valuable and often overlooked insights into age and ageing. As Denshire (2013) asserts, "Autoethnographers often blur boundaries, crafting fictions and other ways of being true in the interests of rewriting selves in the social world" (1). The idea of blurring boundaries is key to the ways this presentation engages with notions of data. In particular, the process of "blurring boundaries" sits well with the ways that thinking self-reflexively as a method enables data in relation to age and ageing to be analyzed in their multiple complexities in time and space (Thrift and May, 2003; Jennings, 2020). As Behar (1996) maintains, autoethnography is: "an intermediate space we can’t quite define yet, a borderland between passion and intellect, analysis and subjectivity, ethnography and autobiography, art and life" (174). Underpinned by its ongoing reflexive practices that are able to examine the ageing self, autoethnography is open to recognizing and dealing with the emotions that are produced in the research process (Grist and Jennings, 2020). Thus, the affect/s of age/ing can be deconstructed to reveal some of the ways we feel time and also feel ageing (Kriebernegg et al., 2014), contributing to the richness and authenticity of academic and everyday understandings of age/ing as, and in, data.

Technology Generations: Empirical Evidence from a Seven-Country Comparison on Older Media Audiences

Loredana Ivan (National University of Political Studies and Public Administration)

In our information society, media use plays an important role. However, knowledge is lacking about whether specific birth cohorts show preferences for specific traditional or new media and whether technology generations can be identified across different countries. The concept of "technology generations" has been launched by Sackmann & Weymann (1994; 2013) to describe the fact that people tend to have a preference for using certain media they were familiar with in their formative years. The concept described both frequency of use and type of use and it has been hardly tested in intercultural-context. We tested differences in media use and media preferences (traditional versus new media) in Austria, Canada, Denmark, Israel, the Netherlands, Romania and Spain, using commensurate samples consisting of Internet users aged 60 years and older at the time we started collecting data in 2016 (N=10527). We selected three technology generations described by Sackmann & Weymann to describe three age cohorts of older adults: the "mechanical generation" (age group of 78 and above), the "household revolution generation" (age group of 68-77), and the "technology spread generation" (age group of 60-67). We comparatively analyzed the differences in media use and preferences between these technology generations and across the seven countries providing empirical support for the initial theory. Our cross-cultural data reveal differences between the technology generations, especially in terms of media use, but not in technology media preference (time spent using different media). We also found the effect of country of origin to be stronger than the effect of generation in explaining older adults' preferences for traditional/vs new media. The results point to the need for a more nuanced view of the concept of "technology generation," i.e., one taking into account contextual aspects, such as country of origin, gender, level of education, working status and the interaction effect between country of origin and "technology generation."

Digital Storytelling: A Narrative Didactic Tool to Negotiate Intersectional Identities and Forster Intergenerational Knowledge Transfer

Nicole Haring & Dagmar Wallenstorfer (University of Graz)

While many activities have been switched online in recent years and societies have become "digital by default" (Hill et el., 2015, p. 421), the pandemic has certainly accelerated the virtual shift and, by doing so, has made transparent the social inequalities and challenges of our current times. Due to COVID-19 measures that aimed at reducing personal contact, and thus minimizing the risk of infection, educational institutions were closed and students switched to online and remote learning. As a result, 1.6 billion learners were affected (UN, 2020, p. 2) and digital education became the "new normal." This shift revealed explicitly how socio-economic differences influence student's educational performance. Access to high-speed internet and brand-new laptops is not a reality for everybody and thus falling behind was inevitable for many. This made evident the need for urgent development and implementation of inclusive tools and methods to combat social inequalities and foster digital inclusion. This talk proposes Digital Storytelling as an ideal tool for inclusive education as it only requires easily accessible technological means and at the same time provides the opportunity to engage with complex diversity issues through the tool of storytelling to include all voices in the discourse. Generally, storytelling is a multi-layered technique that individuals carry out constantly over their life-course. Baldwin (2008) argues that we are "narrative beings who find our Selves in the stories we tell about ourselves and the stories that others tell about us" (p. 223). In line with Baldwin's idea, Digital Storytelling aims at highlighting the inter-personal activity of narrating that can negotiate intersectional identities and thus provide a tool to include a diverse cohort of voices. Furthermore, we propose Digital Storytelling as a narrative didactics tool, as it brings the didactic nature of storytelling to the forefront. Additionally, we elaborate on how Digital Storytelling can create a knowledge transfer across generations by presenting how students often relied on artifacts and memories from their parents and/or grandparents in the creation of their stories. Thus, the talk will emphasize how this method enables an intergenerational exchange and creates new ways of telling, while enabling inclusive remote teaching.

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