Considerations on Digital Autobiography of the Elderly in the Digital Age


Seoni Joo1, Hanil Kim1, and Seri Pansang2


1Dept. of Storytelling, Graduate School of Social Education, Jeju National University

66 Jejudaehakno -ro, Ara-dong Jeju-si, Jeju-do, Korea

2Department of computer, Faculty of Science and Technology, Chiang Mai Rajabhat University

202 Changpuak Road, Changpuak Subdistrict, Muang District, Chiang Mai, 50300, Thailand.,,





The New Silver Generation in Korea is different from the previous generation in digital enjoyment. They have a strong desire for media and social participation and self-representation. To develop their ego-integrity, they need the three interrelated and overlapping functions of recall, evaluation, and synthesis that constitute the process variables of the life review. Autobiography has been used as an excellent tool to help life review. The digital autobiography that we propose in this study means a long-life story with a plot composition recorded in digital narrative by using digital media. Comparing the existing autobiography to this digital autobiography, we expect: First, digital autobiography allows easy access to the process of life review. Second, it broadens the scope, and possibilities of self-representation by means of co-sensory production which was impossible in the existing text-type autobiography. Third, the interactivity of digital narratives provides active opportunities to engage in social participation and self-representation, a desire of the elderly in the digital age.


Keywords - autobiography, life review, digital narrative, ego-integrity, self representation, New Silver Generation


1. Introduction


According to data from World Population Ageing, globally the number of people aged 80 years or over, the “oldest-old” persons, is growing even faster than the number of older persons overall. A society is often defined to be an aging, aged, and super-aged society when the proportion of population 65 and older exceeds certain levels, such as 7%, 14%, 20% [1]. According to the Ministry of Public Administration and Security of Korea, the rate of the total population over 65 years old will be 14% in 2017 and 20% in 2026 [2]. Korea is one of the fastest aging nations in the world, and the elderly generation of the 21st century is called the New Silver Generation. They were born after 1945 and have led Korea's growth and development. They are unlike the previous silver generation. Instead of spending away the rest of the life, they actively seek out new jobs, enjoy sports and travel. And they strive to return to the society their experience and life wisdom that they have accumulated in their lifetime [3]. They’re the first generations who will spend more years as old people than as young people. Their lack of aging readiness can also be a social problem.

The New Silver Generation has a distinctive feature in digital enjoyment and media needs that is far different from the previous generation. The development of communication technology and expression technology, and the development of digital media, provide a new and diverse experience for the New Silver Generation. In particular, after the interactivity of digital media has been accepted into human storytelling, the scope of narrative expression is expanded, and new ways of expressing are shown [4]. Now the New Silver Generation can use a various method of interactive digital narrative, not in one-way communication method.

According to Erikson’s theory, the final stage occurs during old age and deals with the central issue of ego-integrity versus despair. The elderly need to look back on life and feel a sense of fulfillment. Success at this stage leads to feelings of integrity, while failure results in regret and despair that will come after retirement [5]. Ego - integrity refers to the internal desire to evaluate and accept one’s life as having been inevitable, appropriate, and meaningful. Erikson viewed life review or reminiscence as vital to the task of stage eight, the stage associated with old age. Autobiographies have been used as an aid of helping to recall and review life [6].

In this study, we will examine the basic characteristics of autobiographies that promote ego - integrity in previous research and suggest some points to consider when applying them to digital autobiographies of the New Silver Generation.

2. Review


2.1. Characteristics of the New Silver Generation


In Korea, 13 million people of the first Baby Boomers (1955-1963) and the second Baby Boomers (1968-1974) will begin turning 65 years old in 2020. People born during this people, equivalent to 59.66% of the total population, are called the New Silver Generation. This generation experienced various cultural contents in the 1960s and 1970s, when pop culture was introduced to Korea and Korean movies and popular music were in its heyday. The New Silver Generation was accustomed to the mass media and active in economic activity and consumption activity.

The characteristics of this generation are described as 'health, family, leisure, social participation, digital life' [7]. New Silver Generation has been exposed to digital environment. As digital media become popular, they show unique digital enjoyment and media desire, which are far different from previous generation [8]. For example, mobile devices are used as tools for leisure, social participation, and self-expression. It is claimed their intense desire for education in new areas is the manifestation of self-fulfillment [9].

According to Erikson’s theory of psychosocial development, people experience eight stages of development over our lifespan, from infancy through late adulthood. At the final stage, they need to solve the task of ego-integrity versus despair. Older adults need to look back on the events of their lives. Those who feel proud of their accomplishments feel a sense of integrity, and they accept death as the inevitable end of life. But Those who are unsuccessful during this stage will feel that their life has been wasted and will experience many regrets. The failure results in bitterness and despair, because it seems they don’t have the opportunity to live another life again [5]. The negative view of old age with its outworn stereotypes must be changed if the elderly had more opportunities for successful aging. It is time for a more balanced attitude. Reminiscence and life review are effective aides in this direction. It helps for the elderly to have a balanced view of old age and to finally achieve ego-integrity. [6]. The life review is a dynamic process involving not only the individual, but the past and present psychophysiological, sociocultural, and historical context as well. The three interrelated and overlapping functions of recall, evaluation, and synthesis constitute the process variables of the life review. The life review begins with a recall component. Memories, revised and elaborated during recall and evaluation, are reintegrated during synthesis. [10].

The New Silver Generation, which emerged as the central hierarchy of Korea's super-aged society, also requires this process of life review for a new balanced attitude. However, in the process of recalling memories of past events, actions, and cognitions drawn from the unique experiences of an individual over the life, there is a limit that the elderly only can depend on their own memories.


2.2. Writing an Autobiography


Autobiography is a self-written account of the life of oneself. Narrators selectively engage their lived experience and situate their social identities through personal storytelling. Rather than being simply the story of an individual life, it encodes or reinforces particular values in ways that may shape culture and history [11]. Autobiography has more to do with writing or recording the individual life. There are some forms of writing closely associated with autobiography, but they are not interchangeable. Personal narrative or autobiographical narrative is a type of writing that focuses on a few key events in the writer’s life, while autobiography deals with the individual life from the beginning to the present. A memoir is a collection of memories that could be moments or events in history. It tends to focus less on the self and more on others. While biographers generally rely on a wide variety of documents and viewpoints, autobiography may be based entirely on the writer's memory during the writer's review of his or her life. The difference is more evident when we look at its constitutional qualities in terms of autobiographical storytelling.

Autobiographical story, also called life story, refers to a story about something that is important to the speaker throughout his or her life, or expresses his or her own worldview, beyond the situation of speaking. They want to realize various communication purposes through autobiographical stories. A more detailed view of the constitutional qualities of the autobiographical story is as follows: 1) Story is a representation of sequential structured time changes. 2) The plot constitutes a meaningful and cohesive story of unrelated events. 3) The fact that the event became a story is because the event was motivated by the speaker, that is, the speaker experienced the change or caused it as an act. 4) The autobiographical story has ‘multi-value' that transcends the description of the story, conveying the evaluative elements or emotional experience and emotional evaluation, desire, motivation, etc. 5) The autobiographical story has a different viewpoint of the speaker from the double point of view, that is, the moment of experience when talking about experience. 6) A story is an act of imitating their understanding of the world based on expectations, experiences, and desires that have a fundamental distance from the original experience. 7) An autobiographical story is a process of communication, which means interaction with the audience. It plays a role of socialization by providing our empirical narrative expression to others' critical consciousness, judgment and empathy ability [12].

Autobiography can have a rich meaning and multi-value only when it first establishes the constitutional qualities of autobiographical story, and it can function to naturally fill the desire for social participation through the interaction of the elderly. By writing an autobiography, older generations have the opportunity to reflect on their whole life development process, to develop their life-span competence, to solve the tasks of old age, to support the growth and development [13]. In the process of writing an autobiography, it can be a tool to rediscover the meaning of life in a new worldview through recall and to lead to ego-integrity [14].

The meaning of the autobiography for the elderly generation is 1) the moment of self-recognition 2) the purpose of conveying the self-experience to the future 3) the technique of self-consideration 4) the space of freedom and imagination. Autobiography is the product of the shaping, the remodeling the time in memory, and the process of finding identity. It is used as a space to reveal newly reconstructed magnetism. In addition, autobiography is a way of expressing the desire for recognition of the elderly generation suffering from lack of interaction and recognition of others [15].

As mentioned above, it is proved that autobiography is the best tool to achieve ego-integrity, the task of old age, but the first barrier for the elderly to encounter is the difficulty of writing. It's not easy to write, and there are still many people who want their autobiographies to be written by someone else. Long texts that cover the whole life need a lot of effort to go through various stages such as planning, preparing the data, organizing and writing. The task of matching pieces of blurred memory is like a long journey. It cannot be easily started with only one's decision. However, by describing the moments of life that they have lived through the journey, we can have the chance to reflect on the whole life process. The journey allows us to see our lives and surroundings from an angle we have never seen before. It will lead us to rediscover the merits and the joy of life that we have forgotten and to achieve ego-integrity by removing misunderstanding and regret in memory.


2.3. Use of Digital Narrative


Digital narrative is storytelling that uses digital media. Digital narrative has the characteristics as the following table, compared with the traditional narrative.


Table 1. Narrative vs Digital Narrative



Narrative (Storytelling)

Digital Narrative (Digital Storytelling)


oral or text

digital media

Method of delivery


Speaker communicates to listener

interactive, bilateral

Speaker and listener exchange

Narrative Structure




(ending closed) Ending

(ending open) Openness


narrative (text)

narration / video / sound combination



time, causality, formality


spatio-temporal, multi-sensory, interactive


We focus on the characteristics of digital narrative related to digital autobiography. First, digital narrative can be expressed in various ways. Personal stories can be expressed through various media such as photographs, videos, music, and voices, thus expanding the scope of self-expression. Second, the photos taken on mobile, the data exchanged on the SNS, the location and time information left in the digital repository, and the video and audio recordings are not only assets of digital autobiography, but also practical materials to help recall old memories. This can be a new alternative for older generations who have had difficulty completing their autobiographies with conventional text writing.

Next, the interactivity of the digital media is the essence of the digital narrative and provides the possibility of new communication [4]. It created a relationship between the author and the reader with mutual interaction and interactivity. Digital narratives have formed a new narrative space and have a space of communication that has not been enjoyed since the oral tradition. In cyberspace, users of digital narratives talk and network over time and space constraints. When mutual empathy between users is achieved, communication becomes more active. At any time, readers can comment on the author as a netizen, add exploratory research, ask questions, or add stories. They can have equal and bi-directional relationships that can express sympathy or objection [16]. As a result, through this relationship, older generations will be free from alienation and isolation and fully satisfy their social participation needs.

Finally, interactivity allows users of digital narrative to manipulate and change their content themselves as a provider, not just as an audience. In this sense, digital narrative is not simply a narrative that has been converted into digital information, but it can also be defined as a narrative that can manipulate or transform the content itself, such as hypertext novels or interactive movies [17]. In other words, readers can freely move, configurate, write, and append texts of author-created digital narratives. Note, however, that content may be unauthorized, deleted, or duplicated without actually knowing to a shared platform such as YouTube. The ease of use and modification of digital narratives may be a vulnerability [18].


3. Considerations on Digital Autobiography


As we have seen, the New Silver Generation that enjoys the digital age has become easier to write using digital media than the existing text format. The purpose and process of autobiography is to achieve ego-integrity by looking back on the whole life. In addition, digital narrative allows free self-representation by utilizing various digital media. Interaction and interactivity can be a channel of communication linking older generations to other generations. From this perspective, digital autobiography should play a role as an appropriate tool for older generations in the digital age to meet their tasks and needs. Five considerations for this can be summarized as follows.

First, the purpose of digital autobiography is to look back on one's life. Digital autobiography should target the whole life cycle. To look back on your life, you need to go through the process from the beginning of life to the present. When people have difficulty recalling old memory, the digital autobiography can solve this problem. In the data collection stage for autobiography, accurate and large amount of data can be collected through digitalized photos, documents, blogs, and SNS. In the process of collecting, selecting, and arranging digitally stored data, it is possible to recall the forgotten old memory. This naturally starts the process of recall and retrospection. Therefore, it is necessary to develop a tool and service program that will help collect and edit one’s entire life in time. Digital autobiographical writing strategy and method of collecting, evaluating and synthesizing is also a challenge for digital autobiography research in the future.

Second, digital autobiography can be seen as a story with a plot of one’s life. To recall life, it is necessary to evaluate and synthesize the whole life. The authors reorganize the time and events in memory in the process of refining the autobiographical plot. At this point, unrelated events have new meaning and cohesion. The authors naturally talk about what experience was meaningful and important to them, and how their worldviews are. Through this process, they find out how they experienced their change, emotional experience, evaluation, desire, and motivation. As a result, they will experience new change and growth by looking at their past lives and surrounding relationship from a different angle than the moment they experienced. Therefore, the process of planning a digital autobiography should include a step of reconstructing the whole life into a story. It is necessary to compare and examine how to apply autobiographical writing techniques to digital autobiography in the future.

Third, digital autobiography can express self in various ways using digital media. You can reduce the emotional burden of writing autobiographies in text only, while choosing the way you want to express your pictures, music, videos, texts, and voices. It also helps to resolve the desire for digital enjoyment actively in the digital space. Digital autobiography will broaden the scope  and possibilities of expression, along with methods of using synesthesia, which was impossible in traditional textual autobiography. The development of digital autobiographical models developed with various digital representation methods needs to be studied.

Fourth, digital autobiography can be a space to realize various communication purposes. Digital autobiography also has the characteristics of interaction, the essence of digital narrative. In other words, authors and readers can talk to each other over time and space, form a network, and mutually agree. In addition, digital autobiography is a record of the vivid historical scene through the story of the personal life of the old generation. This is also consistent with the purpose of autobiography delivered to posterity with his or her experiences. As a result, older generations will naturally fill their desire for social participation through interaction. The development of a service platform that can emotionally share the problems of each generation and the anxieties and wisdom of life in digital autobiography can be handled as a future research project.

Finally, copyright infringement and protection methods of digital autobiography should be considered. It is an advantage that it is easy to change and modify, and it is possible to delete or reproduce, but it is also a problem to be supplemented as autobiography. Autobiography made of digital media is a medium that can be used in various fields. Unlike the intention, the independence and stability of the contents should be ensured so that the autobiography written by the author is not manipulated or changed by the reader or others. Digital autobiography is a part of his/her entire life and personal intellectual property. Damage, deletion, and alteration of this may be another pain and injury to the author. The scope of the disclosure or whether it is confidential or non-disclosure should also be determined by the individual. In the future, digital autobiographical copyright protection and alternatives to stability will also be studied.


4. Conclusion


Previous research has confirmed that digital autobiography can be an appropriate tool for addressing the old age challenges of New Silver Generation, the elderly in the digital age. Previously, autobiography using life review was used to achieve ego-integrity. The life review using the digital media can overcome the limitation of the existing autobiography which depends only on the memory of the users, and also conforms to their digital enjoyment and media needs. In addition, through digital autobiography, they can talk about their lives in various ways and have an opportunity to communicate with other people (readers or listeners). This will satisfy the desire for self-representation and social participation of the New Silver Generation.

In this study, we propose the following five considerations for digital autobiography. First, the purpose of digital autobiography is to look back on one's life, and it is necessary to go through the whole cycle of life in a sequential manner. Second, digital autobiography can be seen as a plot of a story with a plot composition of his life. It can help a narrator to evaluate and synthesize his/her whole life through the process of reconstructing the time and events in memory. Third, digital autobiography can express self through various media using synesthesia. Fourth, digital autobiography can be a space for realizing various communication purposes with interactivity of digital narrative. Finally, copyright infringement in digital autobiographies and how to protect them should be considered. The ease of modification and the possibility of deletion or reproduction, are both advantages and problems that must be supplemented by digital autobiography.

Digital autobiography should continue to be studied and developed in the future in order to bring out the roles and significance of this era. First, we need to develop professional tools and service programs so that users can collect, edit, and store digital assets. Next, we need to develop customized education programs for older generation with a desire for new education; 1) autobiographical writing using digital narratives, 2) step-by-step training to create digital autobiographies using a variety of models, and 3) learning methods of memory-evaluation-synthesis thinking training. Third, we need to develop a service platform that provides a cyber space for communication between users who can share the problems of each generation, the anxieties of the times and the wisdom of life through digital autobiography. Finally, copyright protection measures of digital autobiography remain a challenge.



This research was supported by Jeju National University and Chiangmai Rajabhat University in 2018.



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