11 February 2020

Swindonians called upon to help lead the fight-back against social media stereotypes of ageing

Fighting social media stereotypes of ageing
Members of the public from Swindon and Wiltshire are being asked to post their own photos of everyday life. Why? To help challenge negative stereotypes of ageing and biased social media algorithms. All as part of the town’s online Festival of Tomorrow.

The initiative marks the launch of an on-going research project between:
The Centre for Digital Citizens
* UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) and …
* … Swindon’s Festival of Tomorrow. 

Aims of the projectFighting social media stereotypes of ageing

The project aims to gather data to:
*Help explore the concept of ‘Ageless Citizen’ and …
* … the relationship between technology and bias/stereotypes around age.

Search engines and stock photo libraries often use positive or negative depictions of people in later life. And these images bear no resemblance to reality.

These images help to spread and perpetuate harmful stereotypes of ageing and older age. The reality is that digital technologies often replicate and magnify existing prejudices and biases within society. It’s called: ‘algorithmic bias’.

Fighting social media stereotypes of ageing - people drinking coffee
Image courtesy of Centre for Ageing Better, under CC0 licence to Attribution-NoDerivatives 4.0

Brain child

The project is the brain-child of a group of researchers from the Centre for Digital Citizens based at Newcastle University and Northumbria University. Dan Lambton-Howard, researcher at Open Lab, Newcastle University said:
‘We want to challenge algorithmic biases to create a more diverse and authentic representation of ageing and later life. That way we can fight back against the algorithms!

We want people from Swindon and Wiltshire to help us fight back against search-engine bias and stereotypes of ageing. And we want them to do it by creating and sharing more realistic images of growing up and growing older on social media!”

Rod Hebden, Director of the Festival of Tomorrow said “No-one likes misrepresentation. So we want as many people as possible to take part in the project. They can do by sharing a photo of growing up or growing older that fits one of the following titles:

  • This is my everyday
  • Don’t underestimate me
  • A shared passion

Send us your photos by posting them on social media with #FestivalOfTomorrow.

To help search engines understand your image we also want you to tag your image with three words that best describe it.”

FOT Facebook image
FOT Facebook image

The Festival of Tomorrow

Visitors to the free online Festival of Tomorrow on the 19 and 20 February will be able find out more about the project. They’ll also enjoy a varied programme of talks and shows. Further, a virtual planetarium and exploring an amazing range of exhibitors showcase the latest science and research. That ranges from the future of space travel to the UK’s leading role in the fight against coronavirus.

Register for your free place now at www.scienceswindon.com/festival-of-tomorrow

The Festival of Tomorrow is a collaboration between STEAM museum and Swindon-based consultancy, New Elements.

It’s made possible by the support of principal partner, UK Research and Innovation and major partners Business West and Bravedog.

See also: