Digital outcasts are defined by Kel Smith as “those with physical and cognitive challenges left behind in the technological juggernaut that has defined that last quarter century”. These “outcasts” are not typically those with high disposable incomes in the usual 18-34 age demographic. They are often of the older generations.
The concept of “digital outcasts” rests on the notion of accessibility – any condition that prevents equal use of a product or service. These conditions can be physical, mental, or cognitive. Accessibility gives the “haves” better rights or privileges in using equipment such as web search engines, ATMs, or driving, for example, than the “have-nots”.
[easyazon-image align=”left” asin=”B00A17IAO0″ locale=”us” height=”100″ src=”http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/417mxjzpiNL._SL160_.jpg” width=”100″]The need for technologies grows as we age, where physical and cognitive capabilities start to diminish, where the disabilities, based on the 2000 U.S. Census showed specific disabilities in seeing, hearing, lifting moderately weighted objects, and needing help in daily living. An April 2012 Pew Foundation study showed that half of the 65 and ups were online, and another study indicated that 20% do not use the internet at all, with one reason being that it is not relevant to them, or they view it as difficult to use or dangerous.
This divide in population using the internet is concerning to me, being that the capability of the seniors being online is not as great as the design for relevance for their age bracket. In an age of television and internet overshadowing a large younger population, the older generations may not understand the perceptions and desires of their more pop-culture-sensitive “peers”.
[easyazon-image align=”left” asin=”B007N9217Q” locale=”us” height=”100″ src=”http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/41zsWIAGO3L._SL110_.jpg” width=”100″]I have tried speaking to older people about things that are happening in the popular culture of America today, and have received blank responses when discussing movies, television, music, popular websites, or common smart phone applications. The digital outcast is very apparent here. We can discuss sports all day long, but when it comes to other culture in media or the internet at large they are seemingly oblivious to their surroundings.
This trend has probably been true for decades, as I have seen it; and it could continue in this fashion, but the access to the internet and the overall motivators for using it can and should change for a better union of its users. More users both young and old should be more able and comfortable in their contributions to the web for all to use.
Smith, K. (2013) Digital Outcasts: Moving technology forward without leaving people behind. Waltham, MA: Elvisier, Inc.
Image Source: Flickr
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