Ageing and Technology: the case of a one-tablet-per-senior program in Uruguay

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Castleton, Alexander




This thesis examines the relationship between older persons and technology, focusing on a one-tablet-per-retired-senior public program —Plan Ibirapitá— being developed in Uruguay. It is situated within recent Science and Technology Studies (STS)-inspired research on aging and technology that has stressed that older people and technology are co-constructed or co-constituted, namely, that rather than being technologically-averse, older people negotiate with technology in specific contexts. This thesis also uses the philosophical reflections of José Ortega y Gasset on the relationship between self, circumstance and life as a que-hacer (having-to-do), suggesting that it could provide new means of conceptualizing the relationship between older people and technology, emphasizing the agency of the former. Within this framework, this thesis is the product of a qualitative research design through which I interviewed Uruguayan seniors who received the tablet. My research found that there is a prevailing techno-optimist discourse that frames technologies, such as the tablets distributed under Plan Ibirapitá, as an intrinsically good and necessary thing for seniors' lives that my research participants rhetorically embraced but was not reflected in their actual usage of the tablet. Such a program is valuable insofar it provides digital access to a population —older people— that theoretically suffers the consequences of the digital divide. However, exclusion from the information society may not be a problem for many seniors. I suggest that seniors should be conceptualized as agents who actively decide the role that technology plays in their lives and for whom being included in the information society means different things according to their individual context. I also suggest that it is necessary to focus on how seniors relate to digital technology precisely as part of their circumstances, and how they understand being digitally included or excluded themselves.


Social Structure and Development
Sociology - Theory and Methods




Carleton University

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Theses and Dissertations

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