Everyday use of computer-­mediated communication tools and its evolution over time: an ethnographical study with older people

Authors:
Sergio Sayago*, David Sloan* and Josep Blat**
*Digital Media Access Group, School of Computing, University of Dundee, Dundee DD1 4HN, Scotland
**Information and Communication Technologies Department, Universitat Pompeu Fabra

Published in:
Interacting with computers The interdisciplinary journal of Human-Computer Interaction

Abstract:
Based on a 3-year ethnographical study, this paper discusses the prolonged use of Computer- Mediated Communication (CMC) tools by approximately 400 older people in an adult education centre in Barcelona (Spain). Contrary to oversimplified views of older people as ICT users, this paper shows that they make a very rich use of CMC tools. Relevant elements of this use are their permanent desire to feel and be included, social, independent and competent ICT users. Despite the numerous interaction issues they face when using ICT, some are constant across different tools. Difficulties due to cognition limit their interactions more severely than those problems due to perceiving visual information or using the mouse. By examining the longitudinal aspect of the study, this paper addresses the evolution of technology use and whether the interaction issues that most of the current older people exhibit will be relevant when today’s more ICT literate young adults grow older. Interaction issues due to cognition are time-persistent, and independent of both experience and practice with ICT. Difficulties reading from the screen or using input devices are overcome with ICT experience. The strategies adopted by older people for coping with all these interaction issues are always targeted at feeling and being included, social, independent and competent ICT users. The results deepen current understanding of tools use in connecting older people with their social circles and the interaction issues most of them encounter when using ICT. The results also suggest that cognitive-related problems will be the most important ones in our work with the next generation of older people.

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Citation:
Sayago, S., Sloan, D., Blat, J. Everyday use of computer-mediated communication tools and its evolution over time: an ethnographical study with older people. Interacting with Computers (2011).