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Anthropology of Smartphones and Smart Ageing Blog


Anthropology of Smartphones and Smart Ageing


Older adults facing the smartphone: two taps away from frustration, and two taps away from empowerment

Alfonso Otaegui12 March 2021

Note: you can also read this blog post in Spanish here. 

The global comparative research project ASSA analyses the relationship between ageing, health, and smartphones. How can we study the relationship between older adults and new technologies, such as the ubiquitous smartphone? In my case, I volunteered at cultural centres in Santiago, Chile, for over a year, teaching older adults how to approach this brave new device. As usual with ethnography, I had to unlearn my own experience (with the smartphone) in order to see it from the perspective of the research participants, older adults aged between 60 and 80.


This short film portrays my experience teaching older adults to use the smartphone in cultural centres for over a year. This rewarding experience allowed me to acknowledge the multi-layered complexity and challenges of digital literacy for older adults. 


Our upcoming book, The Global Smartphone, Beyond a youth technology, devotes a whole chapter to the relationship between ageing and smartphones. The English version will be out in May this year, while the Spanish one will be available later in the year.

How can I live my life without you?

Xin Yuan Wang27 January 2021

Deep in lockdown in London, it is curious to see how people, including myself, somehow see the smartphone as a ‘lifeline’ in various ways, from arranging daily life to keeping in contact socially. The global pandemic has recruited the global population to a forced social experiment of social isolation, and most had no choice but to experience daily life digitally. Having said so, even before COVID, my research participants back in Shanghai had been fully aware of the fact that the smartphone has long been an essential part of their daily life.

The title of this newly released video, ‘How can I live my life without you’, comes from an old popular love song in China. This expression is used by the lady in the video, one of my research participants, to describe the relationship between people and smartphones.

The video below will be included in our upcoming collaborative volume ‘The Global Smartphone: Beyond a youth technology‘, out this May.