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Accepted Contribution:

The essentialist matrix of digital ageism and sexism: Italians grappling with age and gender stereotypes surrounding digital technologies  
Francesca Belotti (University of L'Aquila) Mireia Fernández-Ardèvol (Open University of Catalonia) Simone Mulargia (LUMSA University) Paola Panarese (Sapienza, University of Rome) Francesca Comunello (Sapienza)

Short abstract:

Our research unpacks sexist and ageist stereotypes surrounding the digital realm by revealing how Italian people (try to) explain them. An essentialist matrix surfaces, with ageism being not problematized at all (unlike sexism) due to lack of awareness about age(ing) as a discriminatory device.

Long abstract:

Digital technologies as a field geared towards men and youth (Wajcman 2009; Åsberg & Lykke 2010; Rosales & Fernández-Ardèvol 2019; Svensson 2023) trigger sexist and ageist stereotypes (Neven 2010; Sciannamblo 2017) that are based on broader prejudices and stigmas about women’ and older people’s skills or communication styles (Comunello et al. 2017; Köttl et al 2021). On these grounds, our research attempts to unpack such stereotypes by unveiling how people try to explain them. We conducted 6 online focus groups with Italian women and men from two age cohorts far apart in time (20-30 and 65-75 years old). The stimuli aimed to easily leak the stereotypes that participants had in mind and to spark a collective discussion based on personal interpretations of them (Stewart & Shamdasani 2017). The results unexpectedly reveal an essentialist matrix of sexism and ageism, which may exceed the field of digital technologies. Participants proved to believe that certain social groups (women and the elderly, but also men and young people) are defined by intrinsic properties, without considering external factors (Sayer 1997; Witt 2011; McKeown 2014). Some of them did problematize the sociocultural roots of digital sexism by proposing publicly known discourses about gender as a segregating device; but no one did the same for digital ageism, which emerged as naturalized probably due to a lack of public debate about ageism and awareness about the discriminatory implications of age(ing). These findings suggest a path of intervention to deconstruct ageist stereotypes and tailor inclusive technology for the elderly.

Combined Format Open Panel P313
Making and doing ageing and technology
  Session 1 Thursday 18 July, 2024, -