Interfacing age: Diversity and (in)visibility in digital public service

Maria Sourbati, Eugène Loos

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

This article revisits the concepts of ‘diversity’ and ‘visibility’, from the perspective of age relations to consider how these key metrics in the assessment of social inclusion through media representation can be usefully applied to the analysis of digital public service interfaces. Against the backdrop of changes in the age composition of populations, and an expanding role of digital media in ‘digital by default’ public service provision age remains a neglected dimension of social inequality in media and communications research. This article investigates questions of diversity and social inclusion in old age drawing on a study of visual imagery in public sector websites in the United Kingdom. The analysis integrates insights from media, technology studies, communications policy and critical social gerontology. We identify three patterns in visual imagery: (1) stereotypical representations of group membership as homogenous in terms of age groups, sex, health status and ethnicity, with older adults typically represented as white, (un)healthy men or women; (2) new visibilities, of older adults as socially and culturally diverse groups; and (3) new approaches to inclusive digital service design where age becomes an invisible social demographic. We discuss implications for policy and research into diversity, digitalization and digital public service interfaces.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)275-293
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of Digital Media and Policy
Volume10
Issue number3
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sep 2019

Keywords

  • Age
  • digital by default
  • digital public service
  • diversity
  • older people
  • public service interfaces
  • (in)visibility

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