Community-Building in Later Life and the Role of Information and Communication Technologies

PhD Thesis

Khamidullina, Z. 2018. Community-Building in Later Life and the Role of Information and Communication Technologies. PhD Thesis University of East London School of Social Sciences
AuthorsKhamidullina, Z.
TypePhD Thesis

The thesis explores the capabilities of Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) in community-building in the context of a rural retirement community, and
considers the notion that ICTs can transform the patterns of social participation in later life. Drawing on the symbolic interactionist perspective and using ethnographic and narrative approaches, I look into the ‘material’ and ‘virtual’ aspects of community participation of older people, and the assumption that ICTs have the potential to enhance civic engagement in later life. A special emphasis is placed on how ideas about the contribution of ICTs to community-building meet the community practices in a particular location, and what these practices are.

The project is informed by the following research questions: ‘What is the role of ICTs in defining and maintaining community for people in later life?’ and ‘How does engagement with ICTs in later life shape the construction of collective identities?’ The use of ethnographic and narrative methods enabled the production of data that, along with depicting individual experiences, also highlighted the context where collective identities are produced and sustained, and where meanings are created. I explore long-standing and relatively recent community structures and practices, as well as the development of new ones, with a particular focus on those facilitated by or emerging through the use of ICTs.

I consider the utility of ICTs for enhancing community participation in one single location, and discuss how ICTs are geographically embedded and developed by
community members and groups. Of specific interest are the relationships between the processes of community-building and the construction of collective identity, including its spatial and demographic aspects. Particular attention is paid to the significance of locality as part of creating meanings about the community, and the role of community practices in construction of shared identity with a focus on those enabled by ICTs. Symbolic interactionism provides the framework for exploring how older people’s understanding of community translates into the creation of actual physical and virtual spaces.

This thesis contributes to the body of knowledge about old age and technology by looking at the use of ICTs by older people from a micro-perspective. It brings a unique level of understanding of how older people engage with ICTs in the context of communitybuilding, which was made possible by employing ethnographic and narrative methods and the extended immersion of the researcher in the setting. My research is a step towards identifying and understanding whether ICTs can enable greater civic participation in later life, and if being ‘digitally included’ can improve the quality of life and the community engagement for older people.

PublisherUniversity of East London
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Publication dates
PrintSep 2018
Publication process dates
Deposited16 Aug 2019
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