Proxy Users Enable Older People Creative Writing on the Web

Piotr Toczyski, Cezary Biele, Jarosław Kowalski

2019 Frontiers in Sociology, T. 4, s. 1-11

This paper presents several state-of-the-art concepts within Internet studies and applies
them to the creative writing of older people using the Internet. For more than 10
years two creative Web users aged 80+, assisted by younger proxy users, were
involved in preliminary action research. It was aimed at finding patterns of inducing older
people’s creativity and sharing their wisdom with the general Internet audience. The
effectiveness of conducted action research in transferring wisdom using silver digital
content is high. It is demonstrated with (a) qualitative participants’ insights, (b) the
quantitative description of statistics of blog visits, and (c) the social significance of the
topics covered in the created content. Lasting for more than a decade and located
within the space of socio-technological solutions in Central and Eastern Europe, the
results delivered patterns of emerging technologies aimed at enhancing older people’s
creativity on the Web. The insights from those two action-based case studies enabled
the development of new hypotheses. New directions of further, more advanced research
of older users’ activity are based on interdisciplinary studies at the crossroads of
public health, sociological theory, gerontology, and human-computer interaction studies.
New research questions are presented, to be explored within the social scientific
studies of the next-generation Internet. Departing from the established concepts and
preliminary research, the authors hypothesize that: (1) in order to optimize non-human
technology-based assistants, human proxy users should be researched; (2) voice
assistant technology could become the primary proxy for a production of silver digital
content; and (3) interactive and intelligent technology will be the substitute for social
actors that prevent exclusion and disengagement. The remaining research question
also refers to the conditions under which the technology can be a viable substitute for
proxy users