About ACT

Ageing + Communication + Technologies (ACT) is a multi-methodological research project that brings together researchers and institutional and community partners to address the transformation of the experiences of ageing with the proliferation of new forms of mediated communications in networked societies. ACT is comprised of researchers, students, and community and institutional partners from around the world. 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 elders and suggest strategies for change.

It is a critical and exciting moment to embark on new ways of understanding the intersection of ageing and digital technologies. The world’s population is ageing. One in four people are expected to be over the age of 65 in the next two decades, making ‘the senior citizen’ the largest demographic group in the Western World. At the same time that we are expected to live longer, there has been a proliferation of digital devices, information technologies and mediated systems of communication that network populations globally. How ageing populations, and those in later life, are experiencing a world that is increasingly mediated by the proliferation of digital devices is the primary focus of our research project.

Mandate

At ACT, we aim to create enduring and meaningful partnerships and connections across academic institutions and non-academic organizations while transforming public discourses and understandings of age and ageing. 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. Across our institutions, we are developing curricula and teaching methods and building a lasting collaborative platform for the theorization and critical analysis of the relationship between ageing and digital worlds. Our project draws on the interdisciplinary expertise of our researchers who are working in a wide range of national and transnational settings and fosters an inter-institutional sharing of resources and expertise on ageing and media for students, faculty, community workers and selected industry partners.

Our project name, ACT, points to the research that is undertaken within three inter-related areas:

Agency in Ageing: 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 approaches 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 Ageing 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: Ageing in Networked Societies investigates ageing 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 ageing studies, including – but not limited to – cellphones that allow for talking, texting, and video calling, laptops for Skyping with grandchildren, and tablets for reading books, playing (intergenerational) digital games, or accessing the internet.

Principles and values

ACT takes the ethical and political dimensions of conducting research on ageing 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 ageing:

Age/ing Awareness: Acknowledge age as a significant social category and ageing as a relational process. Foster age/ing awareness.

Context Matters: Ageing 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 ageing intersects with other forms of difference, genders, abilities, classes, sexualities, languages, religions, races/ethnicities. If intersectionality is dynamic, and ageing is contextual, there is not just one life course.

Heterogeneity: Celebrate the ageing 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 ageing 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 ageing realities.