Upgrading Grandma – Blog Week 2

Posted: October 11, 2014 in Mediated Lives

Choosing someone to interview regarding technological advances and their effects was not a difficult choice. My grandma, at 74 is one of the most interesting, critical thinkers I know. Her understanding of the world, along with her vast experiences, made her the ideal candidate.

I asked Grandma the question that I had spent a considerable amount of time thinking about, although when it’s written down on paper, appears a little simple but having researched the different questions I could ask, the ‘why’ question seemed most appropriate. Rael (2004) highlights the difference between simple and critical questions. A simple question will often lead to a yes/no response whereas the critical questions, often starting with ‘why’, “leads to more questions and provokes discussion.”

So, the question posed was: “Why have you not upgraded to an iphone?” Having displayed my iphone 6 to her previously, I knew she was familiar with the phone and its many facets. She takes a keen interest in technology and is always keen to discuss and debate the recent innovations in the world of technology.

The phone went quiet for a moment. “Interesting question,” she replied. As Grandma began speaking, I made notes and listened intently. The notion of upgrading something that was already doing the job she wanted it to do was a key message. There was an underlying discourse of a throwaway society and a belief that there is always something better than what you have. Cost was also a key factor and “is often cited as a significant barrier in the minds of older people. Older people tend to assume that the costs of technology are higher than they actually are.” (1)

Grandma then began discussing the merits of private vs public. “I don’t need everyone to know what I’m doing and I don’t need recognition or acceptance from my peers through Facebook,” was a key quote. She felt that by making our private lives so public (through social media accessible through the mobile phone) we were giving too much away. She quoted a phrase that her mother used to say,”don’t do your dirty washing in public and don’t tell anyone your business.” This quote was discussed for a while as Grandma debated the merits of everyone knowing everything about you. Although it is clear that Grandma has a definite point of view, it is also important to unpick the discourse from which this point of view exists. Grandma appears to have a general distrust of social media and technology. Research from Loughborough University (2010) identified concerns about security and privacy as barriers for older people using technology. But it would be wrong to think that all older people share this discourse however wise I think my Grandma is. Many older people relish new technology and actively engage in social media.

Figure 1

Figure 1

Although I don’t necessarily agree with all Grandma has said, I do envy her freedom from the online society. Whether this is due to her wisdom or lack of experience of new technology is debateable but it is still a valid and interesting insight into age and technology.

Other discourse identifies a digital native as a person who understands the value of digital technology and uses this to seek out opportunities for implementing it. Idea of older people can be a digital native



(1) Age UK – Technology and Older People Evidence Review (2010) p.21



Bowdoin, R – Reading, Writing, and Researching for History, Bowdoin College, 2004



Gomez, J, Pinnick, T, Soltani, A – Know Privacy (June 1 2009)



Jorgensen, M, Phillips, L (2002) Discourse Analysis as Theory and Method (extract) London: Sage Books

Figure 1 – http://www.therightit.com.au/node/33


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