Fellow 2020-21

Amanda Ciafone

Media & Cinema Studies

Ciafone image
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Growing Old in the Age of Technology

Professor Ciafone’s book, Growing Old in the Age of Technology, challenges the dominant academic paradigm of applied research on technology and aging that frames technologies as remedies for “curing” old age or solutions that protect, assist, or empower older people. In the 20th century U.S., technologies transformed the experience and understanding of aging with new definitions of productivity, cultural representations of old age, means for financing retirement, mechanisms for independent living, and biotechnical interventions to extend life. But this book shows how the promise of a “successful” old age—independent, productive, and healthy with proper technological assistance enabling self-maintenance—also came with new expectations, judgments, and inequalities around how people grow old.

Growing Old in the Age of Technology combines archival, interpretive, and ethnographic methods in its interrogation of the relationship between technology and old age to ensure that it is grounded in historical evidence, attendant to the forms and materiality of media and technologies, and engaged with the lived experiences and perspectives of older people and those who care for them. During her CAS appointment, Professor Ciafone will complete research in the archives of 1930's Social Security advocates who framed the elderly, unable to work efficiently with industrial machines or upgrade their skills, as slowing the economy through obsolescence by technology. For a later chapter of the book, she will conduct ethnographic fieldwork with immigrant domestic workers and digital devices, “technologies of the home,” working, often in conjunction with each other, to care for people in old age. For the concluding chapter, she will analyze the polarized technological future of aging in which the privileged seemingly delay biological age through life extension technologies and others are “weathered” old before their time.