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Anthropology of Smartphones and Smart Ageing Blog


Anthropology of Smartphones and Smart Ageing


Individuals and inequality

Daniel Miller14 June 2021

I am currently writing a second book about Cuan, my fieldsite in Ireland. This will allow me to spend much more time presenting evidence for inequality, focusing on an area of social housing located in the middle of Cuan, that remains quite apart from most of this quite affluent middle-class town. Detailed study, however, reveals many nuances to any simple or dualistic presentation that just opposes these different segments of the same town. The overall rise in income and possibilities in Irish society over the last 50 years have impacted upon most of the population, though not all. Bob would never have expected to be able to live outside of social housing, having worked first as a butcher’s assistant and retired finally as a school caretaker, low paid work that precludes the ability to purchase a property. Yet in retirement, he found his true vocation as a poet and today is as comfortable at the opera as he in the betting shop.

The term class is quite a crude categorisation. I would argue that Ireland has a much stronger egalitarian ideology than here in England, laid across still evident inequalities. Many of the oral histories of individuals I recorded talk of the extreme poverty of their origins but alongside the love of literature and the arts. I didn’t feel that this film represented class mobility or a change in class identity, or even that actually Bob sees things in such terms. It seemed there was both something Irish about Bob and also much that was simply individual. This is an additional point. Bob doesn’t have to be typical of anything or anyone, but for the anthropologist, it is hugely important to acknowledge that he exists and that abstract discussions of class and inequality need to balanced by meeting people as individuals, in this case as Bob.

The film is included in the recent book I wrote with Pauline Garvey, Ageing with Smartphones in Ireland.

ASSA Team Update – April 2021

Georgiana Murariu28 April 2021

It’s been almost two years since the members of the ASSA team came back from fieldwork and we have lots of updates and new material coming in the next couple of weeks!

What is the ASSA team up to?

The 6th of May will see the launch of the first three books in the ‘Ageing with Smartphones’ series, which is based on the results of the team’s research:

All of the books will be open-access and downloadable from the UCL Press site.

A Twitter thread summarising some of the points in the Ageing with Smartphones in Ireland book is here. This can also be found on Instagram here.

The Global Smartphone is a comparative book that focuses on the take up of smartphones by older people in all of our 10 fieldsites, many of which you might have become familiar with by now if you have been following this blog!

  • Cuan, Ireland
  • Thornhill, Dublin, Ireland
  • Lusozi, Kampala, Uganda
  • Yaoundé, Cameroon
  • Bento, São Paulo, Brazil
  • Santiago, Chile
  • Kyoto city and Tosa-chō in Kōchi Prefecture, Japan
  • Dar al-Hawa, Al-Quds (east Jerusalem)
  • NoLo, Milan, Italy

The rest of the books will talk about each specific fieldsite in more depth, focusing on ageing, retirement, and the changes to the way in which people live, communicate, resolve intergenerational conflicts, and care for each other and their own health – all aided by the smartphone, of course.


We also have a 3-week course on Futurelearn coming up on the 10th of May, called ‘An Anthropology of Smartphones: Communication, Ageing and Health‘.

The course is free to take and is also based on the results of the ASSA team’s research – it is self-paced and makes use of interactive discussions and short films in what should be a comprehensive look at topics like smartphone use in different social and cultural contexts, models of ageing, and different aspects of mobile health (including the team’s alternative approach to it).

You can now pre-enrol onto the course and you will get notified when it starts. The team will be present throughout the course to interact with learners and give feedback on the various discussions happening throughout the course.


On the 26th of May we will host an open session where members of the public and anyone interested in the project can meet the team and hear more about their fieldwork while having the opportunity to ask them questions.

The event will be hosted by UCL’s Centre for Digital Anthropology and chaired by Hannah Knox. You can register for the event here.


In the meantime, we have also updated the Publications page on our website with a few recent open-access papers on performing healthy ageing through images, deploying visual aids such as emojis and stickers to maintain a digital public façade, and much more!

We’ve also published a Discoveries page, which summarises the main findings of the project. These are illustrated through short videos, infographics and a few cartoon-style illustrations. There will be more cartoons to come in the near future and we are excited to share the results of our research through this creative medium!

In the meantime, we will continue blogging here on a weekly basis.

Finally, if you haven’t had a look at our project trailer yet, you can do so below!