Aging + Communication + Technologies (ACT) is a multi-methodological research lab that brings together researchers, students, activists and artists to address the transformation of the experiences of aging with the proliferation of new forms of mediated communications in networked societies. Together, we are investigating how ‘digital ageism’ – the individual and systemic biases that create forms of inclusion and exclusion that are age-related – operates in subtle ways at this time. Through our collective and collaborative research, we provide an analysis that comes from our engagement with individuals and communities of older adults and suggest strategies for change.
At ACT, we aim to work collaboratively and build bridges across sectors of society while transforming public discourses and understandings of age and aging. We include older adults as active agents and collaborators in our research agenda and work together to develop appropriate languages, methods and ways to communicate intergenerationally and intra-generationally. We are developing curricula and teaching methods and building a lasting collaborative platform for the theorization and critical analysis of the relationship between aging and digital worlds.
Our Lab’s name, ACT, points to the research that is undertaken within three interrelated areas:
Agency in Aging: Collaborative Creativity and the Digital Arts in Later Life encompasses a program of research that involves individuals and communities in the development of participatory action research projects that have both scholarly and creative outcomes. This approach takes seriously people’s everyday interactions with technologies, and uses these experiences to explore what it means to be a critical citizen in the information age in a process of collaborative knowledge creation.
Critical Mediations: Everyday Life and Cultures of Aging examines the everyday life practices and the variegated mediated experiences of adults in later life. Looking at how older adults engage with music, photography, film, television, or gaming, to name but a few of the key areas that are increasingly subject to transformations in their modes of production and circulation, this research employs methods and concepts drawn from cultural studies and the humanities.
Telecommunication Technologies: Aging in Networked Societies investigates aging in the context of networked societies. Research in this area primarily is conducted through methodologies associated with the social sciences, bridging internet and telecommunications research with aging studies, including – but not limited to – cell phones that allow for talking, texting, and video calling, laptops for Zooming with grandchildren, and tablets for reading books, playing (intergenerational) digital games, or accessing the internet.
ACT takes the ethical and political dimensions of conducting research on aging in a digital world seriously. The ACT mandate encourages researchers, partner organizations, colleagues, and students to consider the following feminist principles in conducting research with older adults and on the subject of aging:
Age/ing Awareness: Acknowledge age as a significant social category and aging as a relational process. Foster age/ing awareness.
Context Matters: Aging is a part of a whole way of life lived in different contexts and historical moments. How might we understand what it means to age “in time” and in a specific location?
Dynamic Intersectionality: Ask how aging intersects with other forms of difference, genders, abilities, classes, sexualities, languages, religions, races/ethnicities. If intersectionality is dynamic, and aging is contextual, there is not just one life course.
Heterogeneity: Celebrate the aging process and old age(s) as diverse and heterogeneous, and take care not to “lump” all older people into an undifferentiated mass.
Inclusivity and Systemic Power: Pay attention to who is included and excluded from the research agenda and how this might be systemically perpetuated. Consider how one’s research engages with empowerment and social-justice activism.
Inter- and Intra- Generational Specificity: Treat working with individuals of various generational backgrounds as an opportunity to understand both inter- generational and intra -generational specificities.
Mutual Respect: Carry out research founded on the principles of mutual respect and reciprocity.
Critical Reflexivity: Encourage ongoing critical reflexivity in research on aging in one’s own work as well as the work of others.
Counter Ageism: Identify and challenge ageism and age discrimination. Question ageist clichés, whilst acknowledging lived aging realities.