Keywords:elderly internet non-users, elderly computer non-users, social representations, internet refusal, computer refusal, technology metaphors
This study compares the computer- and Internet-related conceptions of Finnish and American elderly people who deliberately refuse to use the Internet. It seeks to answer the following questions based on various social representations: Are there similarities and differences in the way the Finnish and American respondents classify the computer and the Internet? Are there similarities and differences in the images the Finnish and American respondents use to depict the computer and the Internet? How do the social representations of the computer and the Internet express the respondents’ distinct identities, history and culture? An analysis of written accounts provided by elderly Finnish and American people showed that both groups expressed an understanding of the computer and the Internet as a ‘Tool and Thing’ and ‘Danger’. However, differences existed between their understanding of the computer as a ‘Depriver of Freedom’ and ‘Marker of Differences’. The study concludes that their distinct identities, interests, history and culture may be some of the factors that limit their motivation and capacity to welcome and use the computer. To promote digital inclusion, the elderly should be provided with Internet-related information, training and support. At the same time, however, digital inclusion policies should also encompass a choice for Internet non-use.
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