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Older people and smartphone practices in everyday life: an inquire on digital sociality of italian older users

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Abstract

This paper investigates the use of smartphone in older people everyday life and it is based on an empirical research involving 30 Italian smartphone users aged 62–76. The research drawn on the analysis of 75,089 log data, 3 collective and 20 face-to-face interviews. The paper describes the digital practices through which older users use smartphone to construct social relations within their everyday life as well as elaborate their own media ideologies. The article’s findings show that participants use smartphone for a limited amount of time and mainly to access WhatsApp. The smartphone is mainly used as an organizational device for activating momentary social connections to accomplish practical tasks. The ludic use of smartphone is rarely carried out. Specifically, we observed that through the smartphone, participants put into existence three kinds of “social spaces”: 1) a working space (with peers); 2) a space of augmented co-presences (with children); 3) a space of mutual digital education (grandchildren). In conclusion we argue that the forms of sociality participants put into existence through smartphone are marked by degrees of network privatism. While the media ideology they articulate around their everyday use of smartphone can be conceived as social media phobic.

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... Per quanto la presenza pervasiva dello smartphone sia osservata in tutte le fasce d'età (Darcin et al. 2016;Csibi et al. 2021), questa tende ad essere più intensa tra i più giovani (Kim et al. 2018;Orsal 2013;Shapiro 2019) piuttosto che tra gli adulti (Caliandro et al. 2021). È stato dimostrato, infatti, che l'uso problematico dello smartphone si associa negativamente a indicatori di benessere personale dell'adolescente, incidendo sulla qualità del riposo (Christensen et al. 2016), sulle capacità di concentrazione (Kushlev et al. 2016), sulle relazioni interpersonali (Mahapatra 2019) e sulle performance scolastiche (Baert et al. 2019;Felisoni e Godoi 2018;Sohn et al. 2019). ...
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We propose directions for future research on aging and technology to address fundamental changes in the experience of later life that come with the "digitization" of societies. Our argument is contextualized by the massive investments of policy makers and companies in gerontechnologies and their failure to create scale and impact. Partly this failure is due to an interventionist logic that positions new technologies as interventions or solutions to the problems of aging. What has been overlooked - at least theoretically - is how aging is already co-constituted by gerontechnology design, the socio-material practices it enacts, and the policy discourse around them. Goals are (a) reviewing elements of the current aging and technology agenda, (b) demonstrating how the interventionist logic has hampered theory development (and practical impact), (c) pulling together key insights from the emerging body of empirical literature at the intersection of social gerontology and Science and Technology Studies (STS), with the objective of (d) providing directions for future research on aging and technology. Our argument presents the theoretical gains that can be made by combining insights from STS and social gerontology to research the co-constitution of aging and technology.
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Background: With the growing population of older adults as a potential user group of mHealth, the need increases for mHealth interventions to address specific aging characteristics of older adults. The existence of aging barriers to computer use is widely acknowledged. Yet, usability studies show that mHealth still fails to be appropriately designed for older adults and their expectations. To enhance designs of mHealth aimed at older adult populations, it is essential to gain insight into aging barriers that impact the usability of mHealth as experienced by these adults. Objectives: This study aims to synthesize literature on aging barriers to digital (health) computer use, and explain, map and visualize these barriers in relation to the usability of mHealth by means of a framework. Methods: We performed a scoping review to synthesize and summarize reported physical and functional age barriers in relation to digital (mobile) health applications use. Aging barriers reported in the literature were mapped onto usability aspects categorized by Nielsen to explain their influence on user experience of mHealth. A framework (MOLD-US) was developed summarizing the evidence on the influence of aging barriers on mHealth use experienced by older adults. Results: Four key categories of aging barriers influencing usability of mHealth were identified: cognition, motivation, physical ability and perception. Effective and satisfactory use of mHealth by older adults is complicated by cognition and motivation barriers. Physical ability and perceptual barriers further increase the risk of user errors and fail to notice important interaction tasks. Complexities of medical conditions, such as diminished eye sight related to diabetes or deteriorated motor skills as a result of rheumatism, can cause errors in user interaction. Conclusions: This research provides a novel framework for the exploration of aging barriers and their causes influencing mHealth usability in older adults. This framework allows for further systematic empirical testing and analysis of mHealth usability issues, as it enables results to be classified and interpreted based on impediments intrinsic to usability issues experienced by older adults. Importantly, the paper identifies a key need for future research on motivational barriers impeding mhealth use of older adults. More insights are needed in particular to disaggregating normal age related functional changes from specific medical conditions that influence experienced usefulness of mHealth by these adults.
Chapter
The portability and personalized nature of smartphones facilitates ubiquitous (mobile) being online and constant connectivity, also at school. These affordances extend children’s online opportunities but also pose new challenges. This chapter investigates practices and meanings associated with the presence of smartphones in a school environment. We look at how smartphones are being used (consumption and production), mediated (regulation) and perceived (representation and identity) within a school environment, taking into account the perspectives of both children and teachers. We formulate three research goals. First, we aim to understand the current trends and practices concerning smartphone use and mediation in school environments (RQ1). Second, we aim to uncover the opportunities and challenges teachers and children experience when dealing with the presence and integration of smartphones at school (RQ2). Third, we look at the expectations of teachers and children towards a successful integration of smartphones in a school environment (RQ3). This chapter combines insights from qualitative and quantitative data. As for the children’s perspectives, we draw on the quantitative and qualitative data from the Net Children go Mobile project collected among 9 to 16 year-olds. The survey data help us to contextualize and explain qualitative outcomes, and the qualitative data provide us more insight into the experiences and perceptions of the children. As for the teachers’ perspectives, we draw on focus groups, interviews and observation data from three research projects in Belgium (Flanders) in which 41 teachers participated. Our participants teach children aged 3 to 18 years old in kindergarten, primary school and secondary school.
Article
Design guidelines and checklists are suggested as a useful tool in the development and evaluation of interface design of mobile phones for older adults. Given the intense evolution of mobile phone design, understanding how the design guidelines and checklists have taken into account the advances in mobile phone usability for older adults is important for their correct application and future development. Thus, this study explores the usability dimensions of mobile phone design for older adults and the related changes in terms of time and the type of device (feature phones vs. smartphones) based on an expert coding of the eight mobile phone design guidelines and checklists for older adults published between 2006 and 2014. The results of the expert coding show that design guidelines and checklists most frequently deal with visual and haptic issues (e.g., high contrast, button type, and button size), whilst they hardly ever address various elements of textual interface (e.g., ease of text entry, a button’s feedback, and font type). Over time, the design guidelines and checklists have become more complex in terms of the average number of included usability categories and dimensions. For smartphones, the guidelines, on average, put more emphasis on the screen, touchscreen, text, and exterior related issues, whereas the design guidelines for feature phones stress the usability of the keypad and menus. Besides revealing potential usability dimensions that could be further expanded in the guidelines, this study also highlights the need for research that would empirically validate the design guidelines and checklists in the future.
Conference Paper
The study “Media use of Persons with Disabilities” (MMB16 [1]) provides data on disabled people’s access to and personal use of media and the limitations in the use of such media. Nowadays, full and effective participation in society [2] is not possible without full and effective participation in media and communication. To date, there is no valid data about media usage by the disabled in Germany. This survey consists of interviews with 610 individuals with visual, hearing or physical impairments, or learning difficulties. Expert interviews and focus groups complete the study. The findings of this study show that impairment comes with specific limitations as regards media access and usage. In general, people with impairments and in particular those with learning difficulties, access connected devices more rarely than the general population. They go on the internet less often and use it less for communication and information. Many blind people are offliners, in particular if they acquired the impairment in adulthood. Age is an important personal factor determining media usage. The interaction of age, impairment and other context factors in particular, leads to the extremely rare use of digital media by older people. The disabled are heterogeneous. Full and equal participation in media and communication depends on the context factors which influence the participation level: age, housing, employment, obstacles and barriers to access, technical and personal support.
Article
Despite a growing body of research about older adults’ use of social networking sites (SNS), scholars have not fully explored how this technology is meeting this group’s interactional and information-seeking needs. How do these older adults view this technology? What are their communication needs and expectations and why are they drawn to it? To address these questions and fill a gap in the literature, this study draws upon in-depth interviews with 46 older adults (average age: 80.4 years) about their perceptions of Facebook, which was the leading SNS at the time of writing. Analysis of interview data revealed six primary reasons for using Facebook (keeping in touch, sharing photos, social surveillance, responding to family member requests, convenient communication, curiosity) and six primary reasons for not using Facebook (privacy, need for media richness, preference for familiarity, triviality of communication, time commitment, frustration with site tools). Emergent findings hold implications for future research and SNS design.
Article
The aim of this article is to see whether or not adolescents were the real leaders of the digital ‘revolution’ in the 1990s and whether they have sustained or even improved their position in the 2000s. The analysis is based on two surveys carried out in Italy, France, the United Kingdom, Germany, and Spain in 1996 (N = 6609) and in 2009 (N = 7255). The results show that the adolescents belonging to the first digital generation in 1996 were the most equipped with new technologies, although not the most intensive users. In 2009, the adolescents lost their position as the leading adopters and lagged behind youth and young adults regarding the use of new technologies and computer skills.
Article
In the context of an international research project on older people’s relations with and through mobile telephony, Italian participants spontaneously provided narrations on mobile phones that appeared to be structured around strong stereotypes. Respondents show a twofold representation of mobile phones either as a simple communication tool or as a ‘hi-tech’ device, which generates multifaceted stereotypes. More specifically, when the mobile phone is considered as a simple communication tool, age-based stereotypes address younger people’s bad manners, while gendered stereotypes depict women as ‘chatterboxes’ or ‘social groomers’. On the other hand, when the mobile phone is considered a ‘hi-tech’ device, age-based stereotypes underline younger people’s advanced user skills, while gendered stereotypes focus on women’s lack of competencies. Based on that, we provide a conceptual framework for analysing such stereotyped – and apparently conflicting – representations. Interestingly, while some issues also emerged in other countries, the masculine assumption that women are less-skilled mobile phone users appears as a peculiarity of Italian respondents.
Article
This study examines for the first time whether —and subsequently the extent to which— social connectedness can be derived from Facebook in a population of older Facebook users. Participants (N = 280) were aged between 55 and 81 years (Mage = 61.28 years). Exploratory factor analysis (maximum likelihood with direct oblimin rotation) revealed that Facebook social connectedness emerged as a separate factor to offline social connectedness, with correlations between the factors indicating that they were distinct constructs. In addition, participants reported levels of Facebook-derived social connectedness similar to those seen in younger samples in previous research. Future directions for research include identifying the mechanisms by which Facebook social connectedness might be associated with positive outcomes in older populations. Given the global rate of population ageing, these findings have important implications in terms of the delivery of social capital in older adults.
Conference Paper
This paper presents the main results of a national survey on active aging, with a sample of 900 Italians between 65 and 74 years of age. The research attempted to understand the role of ICT in the daily life of the elderly, in the attempt to answer the following questions: (1) What are the differences between the connected and not connected elderly? (2) What are the perceived risks and opportunities identified by older ICT users? This paper investigates the complex relationship between the elderly and technology, going beyond both deterministic approaches and optimistic analyses of the use (and non-use) of the Internet among elderly Italians.
Article
This paper draws on qualitative data collected as a part of a comparative study on children and teenagers’ uses of smartphones in nine European countries to explore the meanings and emotions associated with the enhanced possibility of “full-time” contact with peers provided by smartphones. It argues that full-time access to peers—which interviewees identify as the main consequence of smartphones and instant messaging apps on their interactions with friends—is a communicative affordance, that is, a set of socially constructed opportunities and constraints that frame possibilities of action by giving rise to a diversity of communicative practices, as well as contradictory feelings among young people: intimacy, proximity, security as well as anxiety, exclusion and obligation. Understanding the perceptions and emotions around the affordance of “anywhere, anytime” accessibility, therefore, helps in untangling how communicative affordances are individually perceived but also, and more importantly, socially appropriated, negotiated, legitimised, and institutionalised.
Conference Paper
Through our participatory design with older adults a need for improved error support for texting on smartphones emerged. Here we present the MaxieKeyboard based on the outcomes from this process. The keyboard highlights errors, auto-corrections and suggestion bar usage in the composition area and gives feedback on the keyboard on typing correctness. Our older adult groups have shown strong support for the keyboard.
Conference Paper
When trying to satisfy an information need, smartphone users frequently transition from mobile search engines to mobile apps and vice versa. However, little is known about the nature of these transitions nor how mobile search and mobile apps interact. We report on a 2-week, mixed-method study involving 18 Android users, where we collected real-world mobile search and mobile app usage data alongside subjective insights on why certain interactions between apps and mobile search occur. Our results show that when people engage with mobile search they tend to interact with more mobile apps and for longer durations. We found that certain categories of apps are used more intensely alongside mobile search. Furthermore we found differences in app usage before and after mobile search and show how mobile app interactions can both prompt mobile search and enable users to take action. We conclude with a discussion on what these patterns mean for mobile search and how we might design mobile search experiences that take these app interactions into account.
Article
It is often asserted that older people's quality of life (QOL) is improved when they adopt information and communication technology (ICT) such as the Internet, mobile phones and computers. Similar assumptions are made about older people's use of ICT-based care such as telecare and telehealth. To examine the evidence around these claims, we conducted a scoping review of the academic and grey literature, coving the period between January 2007 and August 2014. A framework analysis approach, based on six domains of QOL derived from the ASCOT and WHOQOL models, was adopted to deductively code and analyse relevant literature. The review revealed mixed results. Older people's use of ICT in both mainstream and care contexts has been shown to have both positive and negative impacts on several aspects of QOL. Studies which have rigorously assessed the impact of older people's use of ICT on their QOL mostly demonstrate little effect. A number of qualitative studies have reported on the positive effects for older people who use ICT such as email or Skype to keep in touch with family and friends. Overall, the review unearthed several inconsistencies around the effects of older people's ICT use on their QOL, suggesting that implicit agreement is needed on the best research methods and instrumentation to adequately describe older people's experiences in today's digital age. Moreover, the available evidence does not consider the large number of older people who do not use ICT and how non-use affects QOL.
Article
Mobile technologies such as smartphones and tablets have been rapidly adopted worldwide. Mobile media are now the primary online connection for most individuals. Despite this rapid rise, theories of how mobile media relate to communication patterns and outcomes remain scarce. An affordances approach promises a high-level framework for researching how technologies such as mobile media are integrated into routines, affecting subsequent patterns of communication. In this article, I first consider the theoretical lineage of affordances and how this perspective demonstrates advantages from related theories. Second, I draw on affordances to define "communicative affordances," a perspective that takes communication as a central concern. Finally, I synthesize literature from mobile communication to formulate a typology of communicative affordances of mobile media: portability, availability, locatability, and multimediality. Suggestions are then made for research employing a communicative affordances framework.
Article
It has been well documented that in the 21st century, there will be relatively more older people around the world than in the past. Also, it seems that technology will expand in this era at an unprecedented rate. Therefore, it is of critical importance to understand the factors that influence the acceptance of technology by older people. The positive impact that the use of mobile applications can have for older people was confirmed by a previous study (Plaza et al., 2011). The study reported here aimed to explore and confirm, for older adults in China, the key influential factors of smartphone acceptance, and to describe the personal circumstances of Chinese older adults who use smartphone. A structured questionnaire and face to face individual interviews were used with 120 Chinese older adults (over 55). Structural Equation Modeling was used to confirm a proposed smartphone acceptance model based on Technology Acceptance Model (TAM), and the Unified Theory of Acceptance and Use of Technology (UTAUT). The results showed that those who were younger, with higher education, non-widowed, with better economic condition related to salary or family support were more likely to use smartphone. Also, cost was found to be a critical factor influencing behavior intention. Self-satisfaction and facilitating conditions were proved to be important factors influencing perceived usefulness and perceived ease of use.
Book
This book studies the rise of social media in the first decade of the twenty-first century, up until 2012. It provides both a historical and a critical analysis of the emergence of networking services in the context of a changing ecosystem of connective media. Such history is needed to understand how the intricate constellation of platforms profoundly affects our experience of online sociality. In a short period of time, services like Facebook, YouTube and many others have come to deeply penetrate our daily habits of communication and creative production. While most sites started out as amateur-driven community platforms, half a decade later they have turned into large corporations that do not just facilitate user connectedness, but have become global information and data mining companies extracting and exploiting user connectivity. Offering a dual analytical prism to examine techno-cultural as well as socio-economic aspects of social media, the author dissects five major platforms: Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, YouTube, and Wikipedia. Each of these microsystems occupies a distinct position in the larger ecosystem of connective media, and yet, their underlying mechanisms for coding interfaces, steering users, filtering content, governance and business models rely on shared ideological principles. Reconstructing the premises on which these platforms are built, this study highlights how norms for online interaction and communication gradually changed. "Sharing," "friending," "liking," "following," "trending," and "favoriting" have come to denote online practices imbued with specific technological and economic meanings. This process of normalization is part of a larger political and ideological battle over information control in an online world where everything is bound to become "social."
Article
In this article I elaborate and codify the extended case method, which deploys participant observation to locate everyday life in its extralocal and historical context. The extended case method emulates a reflexive model of science that takes as its premise the intersubjectivity of scientist and subject of study. Reflexive science valorizes intervention, process, structuration, and theory reconstruction. It is the Siamese twin of positive science that proscribes reactivity, but upholds reliability, replicability, and representativeness. Positive science, exemplified by survey research, works on the principle of the separation between scientists and the subjects they examine. Positive science is limited by “context effects” (interview, respondent, field, and situational effects) while reflexive science is limited by “power effects” (domination, silencing, objectification, and normalization). The article concludes by considering the implications of having two models of science rather than one, both of which are necessarily flawed. Throughout I use a study of postcolonialism to illustrate both the virtues and the shortcomings of the extended case method. Methodology can only bring us reflective understanding of the means which have demonstrated their value in practice by raising them to the level of explicit consciousness; it is no more the precondition of fruitful intellectual work than the knowledge of anatomy is the precondition of“correct” walking. Max Weber— The Methodology of the Social Sciences
Article
Log data from smartphones have primarily been used in large-scale research designs to draw statistical inferences from hundreds or even thousands of participants. In this article, we argue that more qualitatively oriented designs can also benefit greatly from integrating these rich data sources into studies of smartphones in everyday life. Through an illustrative study, we explore a more nuanced perspective on what can be considered “log data” and how these types of data can be collected and analysed. A qualitative approach to log data analysis offers researchers new opportunities to situate smartphone use within people’s practices, norms, and routines. This is of relevance both to studies focusing on smartphones as cultural objects in everyday life and studies that use such devices as proxies for social behaviour more generally. We argue that log data, for instance in in-depth interviews, may serve as cues to instigate discussion and reflection as well as act as resources for contextualizing and organizing related empirical material. In the discussion, the advantages of a qualitative perspective for research designs are assessed in relation to issues of validity. Further perspectives on the promises of log data from various devices are proposed.
Article
User performance, perceived usability, and preference for five smartphone text input methods were compared with younger and older novice adults. Smartphones are used for a variety of functions other than phone calls, including text messaging, e-mail, and web browsing. Research comparing performance with methods of text input on smartphones reveals a high degree of variability in reported measures, procedures, and results. This study reports on a direct comparison of five of the most common input methods among a population of younger and older adults, who had no experience with any of the methods. Fifty adults (25 younger, 18-35 years; 25 older, 60-84 years) completed a text entry task using five text input methods (physical Qwerty, onscreen Qwerty, tracing, handwriting, and voice). Entry and error rates, perceived usability, and preference were recorded. Both age groups input text equally fast using voice input, but older adults were slower than younger adults using all other methods. Both age groups had low error rates when using physical Qwerty and voice, but older adults committed more errors with the other three methods. Both younger and older adults preferred voice and physical Qwerty input to the remaining methods. Handwriting consistently performed the worst and was rated lowest by both groups. Voice and physical Qwerty input methods proved to be the most effective for both younger and older adults, and handwriting input was the least effective overall. These findings have implications to the design of future smartphone text input methods and devices, particularly for older adults. © 2015, Human Factors and Ergonomics Society.