Fostering social connections through internet use: visually impaired older people’s use of computer mediated communications

Okonji, Patrick Emeka (2014) Fostering social connections through internet use: visually impaired older people’s use of computer mediated communications. Doctoral thesis, Northumbria University.

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In today’s ICT dynamic society, questions continue on how internet use affects social relationships and well being. By building upon past work and conceptualising visually impaired older adults as a distinct user group, this research explored the perceptions of visually impaired older people concerning how they build and maintain social ties via Computer Mediated Communication (CMC). The research attempts to create an understanding of how internet use could be of benefit to visually impaired older adults and what implications it has for their social well being. The study employed tools of ethnography [observations in an internet café specifically for visually impaired people and semi structured interviews]. One to one and focus group interviews were conducted with 23 visually impaired older adults between the ages of 60 87 years. All participants were registered visually impaired members of a Voluntary organisation in Newcastle, UK. Findings show that participants mainly perceived the internet as a means to establish and maintain social relationships rather than a substitute for social contacts in the face of myriad challenges with socialisation offline. It also enabled them to challenge popular stereotypes about older people and use of new technologies. Many participants regarded internet use as a means to enhance social connectedness and overcome feeling isolated. Findings showed how internet use fits into the communication styles of visually impaired older people and enable them to cope with the challenges of vision loss. Some participants regarded the absence of visual cues in CMC as a communication advantage which afforded them a platform to socialise with others on an equal footing. The implication of findings for existing theoretical concepts of CMC and the need for a more inclusive theoretical stance which integrates the position of visually impaired users were discussed. The study concludes that the internet is a vital tool for social integration of visually impaired groups. It has potential for positive impact on their well being if accessibility is further enhanced.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Subjects: L900 Others in Social studies
P900 Others in Mass Communications and Documentation
Department: Faculties > Health and Life Sciences > Social Work, Education and Community Wellbeing
University Services > Graduate School > Doctor of Philosophy
Depositing User: John Coen
Date Deposited: 14 Dec 2022 12:55
Last Modified: 14 Dec 2022 13:00

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