Volume 14(3), 2018-11, 324—342

Warm experts for elderly users: Who are they and what do they do?

Tobias Olsson
Department of Culture, Languages and Media
Malmö University
Sweden

Dino Viscovi
Department of Social Studies
Linnaeus University
Sweden

This paper examines “warm experts”—that is, nonprofessional persons who help inexperienced users come to terms with digital devices—and their significance for the use of digital media in everyday life by elderly Swedes. We analyze data from a national survey (N = 1264) and from qualitative, semistructured interviews with 18 elderly Swedes (aged 65+). Our data reveal that the warm expert usually is a closely-related person, often a child or grandchild, who is strongly involved in nearly every stage of technology domestication, from appropriation (i.e., identifying the need, buying the item, and installing and adjusting it) to incorporation (i.e., choosing and downloading suitable apps, teaching how to use them, and solving technical problems). Although the clear majority of elderly Swedes have been online for more than a decade, the need for continuous assistance from warm experts seems to persist also among experienced users.

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