Accepted paper:

'Infomateriality': Whitehead and digital experience amongst the over 65s


David Kreps (University of Salford)
Jessica Muirhead (University of Salford)

Paper short abstract:

Older generations' experience has been more visceral than today's infoworld. Using Whitehead's process philosophy, and findings from four-week diary studies with over65s and under25s, we consider modes of importance, expression and understanding to reconceive contemporary infomateriality.

Paper long abstract:

Baby boomers', and older generations' life experience has been more visceral than the disintermediated information world populated by agile young minds today. How do hands that have wielded industrial tools engage with the haptic gestures deployed with masterful finesse by those who grew up with a smartphone? What challenge do the invisible actants of the virtual present to those whose mastery was gained over a more mechanical world? What can we discern in the differences in self-concept between today's over65s and under25s that are reflective of the technological revolution between? This paper presents findings from four week diary studies with six research cases: Silver Surfers - digitally literate over65s engaged with several devices on a day-to-day basis, confident in their use; Senior Explorers - over65s with the means to engage who are gaining experience in paying bills, talking to their grandchildren on Skype, etc; Senior Leapers - over65s attempting to cross the digital divide, acquiring the means to do so and learning the skills to engage; Digital Young Professionals - student 18-25s doing IT related courses, training to become professionals in the digital economy; Digital Natives - student 18-25s doing non-IT related courses, using learning technologies and social media; and Digital Naturals - non-student 18-25s whose engagement with the digital is almost entirely through their smartphone. Using Whitehead's process philosophy, this paper analyses the results of these studies, and considers the modes of importance, expression and understanding through which we might reconceive contemporary infomateriality, the better to conceptualise gerontechnological innovation.

panel E05
Assembly, silence and dissent in the design and use of gerontechnologies