The Physical–Digital Divide: Exploring the Social Gap Between Digital Natives and Physical Natives

Christopher Ball, Jessica Francis, Kuo Ting Huang, Travis Kadylak, Shelia R. Cotten, R. V. Rikard

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Older adults are the most digitally divided demographic group. The present study explores how older adults perceive the physical use of information and communication technologies (ICTs), particularly across generations and contexts. Data for the present study come from nine focus groups. Seniors acknowledge that ICTs help them connect with geographically distant social ties, but that they lead to feelings of disconnection with geographically close social ties. We label this phenomenon the “physical–digital divide,” which exists when a group feels ostracized or offended when those around them engage with ICTs while they themselves are not or cannot engage with ICTs. Younger generations are often referred to as “digital natives” and older generations as “digital immigrants.” A more apt label for older adults may be “physical natives,” as their preferred method of communication involves physical face-to-face interactions and traditional codes of etiquette. Suggestions are made for reducing the physical–digital divide.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1167-1184
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of Applied Gerontology
Volume38
Issue number8
DOIs
StatePublished - Aug 1 2019
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • digital divide
  • focus groups
  • information and communication technologies (ICTs)
  • older adults

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Gerontology
  • Geriatrics and Gerontology

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