Age-Based Digital Literacy Bias

I learned a very valuable lesson from this week’s reading from Lauren Bowen entitled “Resisting Age Bias in Digital Literacy Research” (2011). This particular quote inspired my epiphany: “But it is a mistake to identify elders who do not use Web 2.0 technologies, or at least not in expected or conventional ways, as somehow failing or digitally illiterate. Even online activity that by now seems mundane, such as writing email or sharing photos, not only counts as digital literacy practice but can also teach us about literate practices that extend beyond youth-centered ideologies” (588). I realized that, as Bowen points out, I had tied digital literacy to a picture of youth in my own mental scope. It was uncomfortable to realize, but then I started thinking about why I would feel this way.

Probably because of commercials like this:

Thinking about my past and my family, I realized that my grandfather was using Facebook before my mother, and that he had the first GPS, weather alert radio, palm pilot, and latest camera of our family. Why, then, would I have tied digital literacy to youth? After he passed, my grandmother refused to have anything to do with technology (except for her landline phone). Apparently, she never had need to learn how to use technology, as she was dependent on my grandfather. Despite my older brother and my mom trying to teach Nana to use a cell phone and a remote control, Nana put up a mental block that we’re not sure resulted from grief or Alzheimer’s. Either way, I lost sight of my grandfather pioneering elderly digital literacy. I needed a reminder that these folks are out there, and they’re under-represented. My own mental scope of digital literacy had narrowed to see only youthful practices in Web 2.0, and thanks to Bowen I have taken a step back and become more humble.

My grandparents and I at my high school graduation

My grandparents and I at my high school graduation


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