Paper at World Social Science Forum 2013: Social Transformations and the Digital Age

My abstract for WSSF 2013 – October 13-15, 2013 in Montréal, Canada.

Panel Expertise with/in Digital Media Tuesday October 15 at 15:00 in room 515A

Abstract:

“You can see the wonder in their eyes, and the world is opening up”: The social dimensions of digital expertise for older and partially blind people

This paper draws on fieldwork conducted with community groups based in the South East of England who run computer skills drop-in sessions aimed at people with sight impairments and people over 50. It examines how participants in these sessions and volunteer staff in the organizations understood their own level of training and expertise with digital technologies. The paper discusses two aspects of participants’ sense of digital literacy and expertise: the relational and social dimensions, which manifested in relation to the expertise of others in the drop-in center, in their close environment of family and friends, and in other social spheres; and the dimensions which participants attributed to the technical affordances of digital technologies. The ‘social’ and the ‘technological’ play out in distinct ways in this context, and are negotiated in ways that allow participants to occupy diverse identities as beginners, learners, trainers, geeks or as expert users. With this discussion the paper provides a wider account of transformations in the social lives communities and groups of people who are faced with limitations of sight or age, with focus on the potential for them to claim digital expertise beyond basic access.

This is research that came out of the Scoping Study Expertise in relation to Digital Transformations as they intersect with cultures and communities. The study forms part of a three year long project funded by the EPSRC/ Digital Economy Communities and Culture (CCN+).

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