Digital Literacy for the Third Age: Sustaining Identity in an Uncertain World
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The world in which we live – the world of late modernity – is characterised by a deep uncertainty; uncertainty not only about the foundations of social structure, but also about individual identity.
Digital technology offers powerful tools for learning, for self-expression, and for the building, maintenance and sharing of identity. But for citizens of the third age, these aspects of the modern world pose a threat to their identity. Being able to use the technology appropriately in real situations is therefore important to any citizen.
Technology has not changed the notion of what learning is, but it has opened up more avenues in thinking how it can be done. If we wish to empower seniors digitally we should focus on their goals for digital usage, the areas in which digital activity is socially meaningful and contribute directly to the development of meaning and identity.
This paper presents a three-level model of digital literacy, understanding that by being aware of the challenges older citizens are facing in modern society we can consider more clearly the role which digital literacy, and its relation to learning, may play in addressing their predicament. Because of the particular uncertainties of the role of our seniors in society, digital literacy can be of great value as a means of social involvement and assertion. Gaining a literacy of the digital, senior citizens can retain a hold on the shape of their lives in an era of increasing uncertainty. In a society where inter-generational uncertainty is probably greater than it has ever been, it can also offer the possibility of a bridge of understanding across generations.