E-scaping the ageing body? Computer technologies and embodiment in later life

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This paper explores the embodied dimensions of computer and internet use in later life, and examines how technology use relates to constructions and experiences of the ageing body. It is argued that previous research on technology use and embodiment has neglected older bodies, in contrast to research on gender and disability. Furthermore, while earlier theorisations presented internet use as disembodied, it is argued that the experience of using such technologies is grounded in our embodiment. In the light of these limitations and arguments for more complete theories of the body, this paper explores how technology use relates to various aspects of embodiment. These issues are examined in the light of data from qualitative interviews and time-use diaries completed by retirees in 17 households in the United Kingdom. By examining the technobiographies of these older computer users, it is shown that changes in body techniques are prompted and in some cases required by broader cultural and technological change. The findings evince the process of acquiring computing skills as an embodied competency, and as a form of practical knowledge that can only be learned by doing. These experiences of technology use were embedded within constructions and experiences of ageing bodies. Although the participants drew on discourses of ageing in complex ways, their coding of computer technologies in terms of the competences of youth often reproduced hierarchies between young and old bodies.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)987-1009
Number of pages23
JournalAgeing and Society
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2010


  • biographies
  • computers
  • embodiment
  • internet
  • lifecourse
  • older adults

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