Was it just me who flinched when Doug was talking about how to explain digital technologies in a way that was simple enough even for his old mum to understand? We were invited to have a good laugh at the image of this simple woman coming to grips with modern technology.
“There but for the grace of god (and Anna) go I,” I thought. With their help I am now slightly more digitally literate than I was at the start of this project, but am probably the same age and definitely the same gender as Doug’s mother. I could not succeed in ‘othering’ (see Fine ) myself completely from her and did not like this stereotype. As it was repeated, I became more ill at ease.
I think that the statement made me feel uncomfortable because it reveals a particular attitude to women and age.
Firstly, why was his mother- not his father or even his son used as an example of digital incompetence? I know many men who are self-confessed digital illiterates- so they do exist. Even if his mother was the least digitally competent person in the family,(and to be fair, it is widely accepted that men do spend more time on computers than women) is he right to imply that she is intellectually challenged? Is he subscribing to the trope that women have an inferior intelligence, especially in the male dominated realm of digital technologies? And how far does this belief in intellectual inferiority extend?
Secondly, does age predefine levels of skill and interest in technology? Are we to believe that older generations have no proficiencies in this area? If Doug had looked around he might have noticed quite a few veteran experts in the field, and that one very eminent professor had just become a Grandmother.
Jokes on age and gender- not a very good cocktail to present to an academic audience- I was not the only one who was- shaken not stirred- by the performance. In fact if Doug’s mother was there she might have made him sit in the naughty chair.
For dissing his elders.