You are on page 1of 27

Research in Media, Cultural Studies and Education Spring 2010

MICHELLE CANNON

Write a critical account of the process of doing your research project. This should include an analysis of the different stages of your research, how the methods you used fit into the wider field of social research and particularly research in Media and Cultural Studies.

FINAL
I confirm that I have read and understood the Institutes Code on Citing Sources and Avoidance of Plagiarism. I confirm that this assignment is all my own work and conforms to this Code.

Word count (number of words): Student evaluation submitted: Copy posted on Blackboard:

53 19 N Y

Name of Tutor(s): Liesbeth de Block MA in Media, Culture & Communication Institute of Education, University of London

Michelle Cannon RMCSE Assignment Spring 2010

A fledging researcher could be forgiven for feeling disappointed that their hard won social research findings must necessarily be met with what Back terms epistemological suspicion (Gray, 2003: 176). However, unpacking the status quo in the quest to examine: who can know what about whom, by what means and to what purpose (Gray, 2003: 34) is a task vested with great responsibility and fraught with high levels of contingency: thus it is with self-reflexive modesty that the following qualitative research is presented. I propose to show how an examination of a slice of everyday life can reveal the macro in the micro: that the repertoires selected, reworked and mobilised at the micro-level are indicative of the wider culture (Gray, 2003:166) and that a constructivist approach to knowledge ultimately benefits human experience. The field of Media and Cultural Studies is as a continually self-correcting process and a contributory factor in this sense of ongoing evolution, is the interactive and participatory affordances of digital technology. Many of the traditional boundaries that once separated points within the cultural cycle: Production > Text > Audience, are being dismantled. Indeed some academics such as Merrin & Gauntlett argue that approaches in the field should be universally revolutionised so as to embrace digital creativity and technological advance. As a mechanism to counter what some regard as over-determining tendencies, one might employ measured, imaginative and flexible ethnographic research, a methodology which is mindful of its sociological and anthropological roots, ready to grasp contradiction and anomaly, and which resists a proneness to essentialism and homogenization. Research Question

I have chosen Social Networking Sites (SNS) as my research topic. I will examine the decision-making processes in establishing the research question, the research design, the data gathering procedures, and then move on to data analysis within the chosen theoretical framework of thematic discourse analysis. Epistemological and ontological observations will be made to assess research methodologies. I also hope to be able to extrapolate certain of Benedicts patterns of culture or links between discourses in relation to the topic of SNS, in an attempt to bear witness to our current historical configuration, to Williams structure of feeling. I am aware that much scholarly thought on SNS is centred on young people themselves and so chose to look at the phenomenon from the parents point of view, as the key stakeholder in the childs personal formation. Given the relative freedom that SNS afford, I am interested in how their use impact on parent/child relations. I am also aware that my choice of research question is inextricably bound up with discourses on modern parenting, teen othering, the role of technology in the home and what constitutes the public and the private in the domestic space. The question I am asking is: What role do social networking sites play in the intergenerational and parent/child relationships in everyday life?. We are living a unique moment historically and the implications of the discrepancy between adult perspectives on new media and youth experiences (Herring, 2008: 83) may be significant. Presently our socalled Internet Generation either remember the pre-internet era or have at least a dual consciousness via the parent of the same; they are thus a generation in transition: a true Internet Generation, which still lies some years in the future, will pave the way for changes in media attitudes and consumption that will be more thoroughgoing, normalized, and hence more difficult to question. (Herring, 2008: 72) Legitimate as this question is, I still find myself struggling with the notion of what gives the researcher the right to investigative social enquiry and

subsequent interpretation? Ones slant will unavoidably be informed by subjectivity which is a product of the environment and the discourses one inhabits. It is therefore incumbent on the researcher to explicitly acknowledge that their purpose is to suggest a version of the truth (Gray, 2003:21) from a particular vantage point, rather than seek fixed universal truths. Stuart Hall is reassuring in his approach to this problematic suggesting that researchers can never be absolved from the responsibility of transmitting new theories and conceptual insights because: one moves from one detotalized or deconstructed problematic to the gains of another, recognizing its limitations Because what is at stake really matters. (http://cultstud.blogspot.com/2007/09/stuart-hall-culturalstudies-and-its.html). However, Halls insistence on making a difference and social research as a force for good is far from idealistic; continually living with tension (ibid), wrestling with conundra (ibid) and struggling with the angels (ibid) are the cornerstones of his theoretical framework. Research Design & Data Gathering Bryman (2008: 377) quotes Guba and Lincoln in his assessment of how to judge qualitative research. As regards trustworthiness, they propose that credibility, transferability, dependability and confirmability are the criteria by which studies should be evaluated, in contrast with the quantitatively associated criteria of reliability and validity. The former four criteria embody a sense of elasticity absent from the latter two - which sits well with the non-realist view that absolute truths about the social world are simply unfeasible. Hence qualitative research is favoured in the study of empirical data, with its emphasis on depth and meaning evoked by language and gesture, on drilling down into an instance so as to inductively suggest a theory that might explain our structure of feeling. A quantitative research strategy, with its emphasis on breadth, the

collecting of numerical data and as Bryman has identified measurement, causality, generalization and replication (2008: 140) - is best suited to deductively proving an existing, perhaps scientific hypothesis, one with a remit to measure broad societal changes across populations. The ontological position of the quantitative researcher is influenced by positivism, a scientific approach where one regards material phenomena as the given, as a separate entity with which one can experiment and from which one can draw conclusions. Qualitative research is predicated on interpretivism and constructionism, it seeks to analyse the world view of its participants emically, seeing social phenomena as the outcome of human interactions; it is an attempt to disentangle an altogether messier set of data. Furthermore, both methods can inform one another through triangulation, and are not mutually exclusive. I chose a mixed method approach combining the qualitative method of semi-structured interview with the more quantitatively associated method of online survey. The latter decision was to assess the method as a process, to increase the numbers of participants so as to check assumptions made in the initial interviews and to possibly gain access to the responses of young people without the logistical and ethical complexities of face-to-face interviewing. Setting the questions for the survey was a time-consuming process as I was keen to set the register to be accessible to both adult and child. In retrospect, this remit was perhaps rather too ambitious: of the few child respondents, some questions were missed out. I hoped that filming participants would add visual and as well as vocal richness to the data but there was also an element of indiscriminate Im filming because I can about the decision and concluded that in fact it only really added value to one of the more emotive interviews (see Appendix

4) . As filming can cause anxiety I was as organised as possible, especially given that my research question incorporated issues of technology. Because of my relationship with the participants (see Appendix 4) it was important to establish ethical boundaries and informed consent, to avoid jeopardizing existing friendships and preserve the integrity of the findings; this was addressed by introducing a signed letter of consent (see Appendix 3). Having re-emphasised the main considerations of nonjudgmental confidentiality and anonymity, I indicated that they were helping me with my studies which made for a more informal atmosphere. I also introduced SNS as the general focus in the hope that parents wouldnt feel in the spotlight on more loaded questions. Photo elicitation also helped in this regard. What was odd during the interviews was having to temporarily assume a new identity with friends and acquaintances, to operate in a new dimension and make a lateral shift into unfamiliar territory. They in turn were submitting to playing a role, drawing on a core of realism embedded in their cultural repertoires. One could argue that the perceived artificiality of the situation is in fact replicated in real-life interviews. As Hammersley and Atkinson (Gray, 2003: 85) have noted, the interviewer is intellectually poised between familiarity and strangeness. It is just one of various dialogues engaged in and identities assumed that eventually comprise multilayered and partially positioned written findings (Gray, 2003: 183). It was difficult at times to keep parents on task i.e. to steer them back to SNS and away from articulations about computers in general; I did consider changing the question in light of this tendency but decided to include it as part of the findings. Furthermore, there was the risk of a) the participants telling me what they thought I wanted to hear and b) my leading the participant with inappropriate knowing asides or telling phraseology and intonation. Remaining neutral presents a real challenge for the interviewer, especially as one is likely to have lived and breathed

the research material and may already have anticipated certain responses. Theres a fine line between encouraging a natural, revelatory conversation and as Connell suggests making sure you harvest your exploratory crop to produce the necessary high theoretical yield (Gray, 2003: 160). It is helpful to keep in mind, as one fends off thoughts that one is merely pursuing facile common sense, C. Wright Mills 1959 comment that the ethnographic research process is a scholarly craft, (Gray, 2003: 5) the accumulative impact of which could have dramatic consequences in the wider world. I chose Pam and Andrew to interview as the mother claims no knowledge or interest in computers and I wondered how the use of SNS might play out in their household. Mentioning celebrity earlier, reminded me of how much like a day time chat show host I felt during this interview: I was aware of playing down my own middleclass upbringing so as not to come across as patronizing to a couple whose family backgrounds had been working class. This mindset could lead to accusations of exoticism on my part, but all one can do as a researcher is acknowledge ones social positioning, the malaise therein, and move on using as rigorous and principled a procedure as possible, rather than be stuck in some kind of politically correct, guilt-ridden impasse deemed too contaminated by bias or privilege to be of any social value. I set up what a certain sector of society might call a clichd photo of my daughter in her media-rich bedroom. I now wish I had given more thought

to the embedded intertextuality of photos and their potential as catalysts for memory recall or more oblique thoughts. In retrospect I could have used a variety of different genres of imagery: headlines, young people reading books, some Facebook chat text or more subtle imagery which might have engendered more surprising responses and fewer informed by shared assumptions, although the latter warrant as much analysis. Apart from wording the introductory email and establishing the questions, the process of gathering data via the online survey (http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/W7JWMHR accessed 31 May 2010) was streamlined and efficient and I received 20 responses from around 50 emailed addresses. The questions were qualitative in nature as people were required to answer mainly open questions. Most responses were short and to-the-point, so in terms of the usefulness of the data, the relative ease and economy with which these answers were garnered must be weighed against the value of thick (Geertz), intense descriptions offered by the interview. The steady trickle of answers coming through felt easily-won in comparison with the complex drama, emotional unevenness and shifts in identity inherent in the interview process. Data Analysis The aim was to explore the impact SNS may or may not be having on traditional family relations and hierarchies, on: the moral economy of the household (Silverstone and Hirsch, 1992: 16). By dismantling the participants language use and patterns of delivery and through the processes of thematic discourse analysis and triangulation, themes can be established and cross-referenced with evidence from different data sources. In this way one might arrive at a modest interpretation of Gupta & Fergusons culturally chaotic present (Gray, 2003: 24) Gillespie & Toynbee maintains that: All knowledge is textual in the sense that there is nothing that can be known beyond language and signs (2006: 183) which indicates the loaded and non-neutral nature of language in all its

forms. They go as far as to suggest that there is barely a distinction between texts and the world as: social reality has indeed been pulled up into the text (ibid), thus the text is constitutive of reality rather than merely a reflection of it . This claim is born out by the parents tendency to homogenize computer use and SNS: the practice of the former seems to merge with the hybrid text/practice characteristics of the latter. Conscious efforts were made to steer the conversation back to SNS in particular, such was the identification of SNS with teen computer use in general. I asked if parents saw any similarities between their own social experiences as a child and those of their children and the answer was emphatically negative: No! not at all, no, no, No comparison!, None at all! (Interview 1), Yes, in that hes human and so am I, but thats probably the extent of it (Interview 2), !! no comparison. No mobile, home phone use restricted no internet (Survey). This is evidence to suggest that young people tend to be othered by adults in the anthropological sense and that their respective difference is a key defining element in parental identity. However, the difference that might once have been associated with a more powerful gaze of the observer over the observed (eg. the coloniser over the savage, male over female, heterosexual over homosexual, white over black) has been emasculated or neutralised in this context. Parents often regard themselves as digitally inferior and this is a cause for concern as regards parental status and identity: I dont deal with computers, Im not up to computers or anything (Interview 1). Furthermore there was an admission of guilt (Interview 2) for not being as technologically adept as one should be, as well as a reference to the child being really kind for helping the mother out, indicating a certain dislodgement and reassignment of roles. There is a similar sense of dislocation and ambivalence inherent in public discourses on the role of the domestic computer: it is as ubiquitous an office or educational tool as it is a source of leisure and entertainment; it

10

is a liberating, labour-saving device but we all spend too long on it; it facilitates private communication while at the same time is the conduit through which danger invades the security of the home. Similarly, SNS are a site of struggle between the celebratory - a liberating forum for teen experimentation with identity and social competences - and the condemnatory an unregulated, sinister, virtual world populated by predatory users eager to corrupt the innocent. The following transcript illustrates how parents seek to navigate polarised discourses - all jostling for supremacy within family value structures. I have chosen to focus on the following snippet of transcript from Interview 1 which offers a rich seam of social discourses and then bring in data from other sources as they are pertinent, which either challenge or reinforce findings. Pam and Andrew are looking at the above photo of the typical 2010 middle-class teen (clips of footage: <http://www.madcan.com/michelle_interviews.mov>):
Pam: doing their homework, on the computer, telephone near their ear, thats the generation of today!

Pams exclamatory summing up is a complex mix of relief at seeing something familiar in the photo, disappointment at all the distractions and indignation at its representativeness of todays youth. Her dismissive tone reveals a tendency to exoticise young people whose media use is seen as a barrier to learning. These are well-rehearsed discourses useful to both teens and capitalist market forces; the former enjoying feelings of empowerment and subcultural belonging, the latter reaping the benefits of continuous subcultural reinvention and the panoply of digital must-have purchases.
Andrew: and Im studying really hard but dont worry mum and dad (laughs), everythings OK!

Andrew exerts his paternal authority by mimicking his children and acknowledging that he will not be taken in by their assumed dissembling. Meanwhile we learn that the children are managing their parents fears and suspicions, further reinforcing social difference and their relatively newly acquired subject position that of still being dependent but still in a position of power.
Pam: That is like looking at them, isnt it?

11

The photo is a good eliciting technique for Pam as it gives her something concrete to talk about; it is the catalyst through which she can express her concerns as if they were packaged pictorially and unthreateningly in her hands. Throughout the interview, the couple seem to present a strong united front to tackle the kids in relation to their assumed familial roles.
Andrew: it is yeah. Pam: Mind you thats like looking at Jade and Jades 26, thats how she was, not the computer, but she was at the phone n the tele on n the stereo on didnt she, while she was doing her

We see that media have historically played a role in the family dynamic, arousing similar feelings of anxiety for Pam even back then. We sense how powerless she feels in the face of perceived technological progress.
Int: So, tele, stereo, Pam: Yeah while she was doing her Int: computer, homework Pam: Yeah Int: So what are your thoughts on that?

I am eager to empathise with Pam, to probe her anxieties, and so pause slightly to allow those thoughts to bed in before asking her to expand.
Pam: Well I always worry, I get really anxious, cos I think theyre not studying and theyre not doing and theyre not and theyre not putting enough into it that they could put into it but then Andrew has a different outlook on it, dont you Andrew?

Worry is the main protagonist in Pams narrative, as revealed in her words, repetitions, hesitations and appeals to her husband. There is a real sense of insecurity and agitation at wasted opportunities: she may be drawing on her own lack of engagement at school and her heartfelt aspirations for her children.
Andrew: I wait for Parents Evening and hit em hard, Facebook off, tele off, phones off, boom, if they tell me theyre doing it, theyre big enough and brave enough I say. SO when it comes to reports coming in and theyre not as good as they were, then thats the end of Facebook and all the rest of it, so

Andrews role is to meter out punishment, but before doing so, he defers to the perceived greater authority of the school. The obstacle to academic progress must be removed or at least the threat of removal must be made clear for parental authority and the social order to re-assert itself. The extreme nature of Andrews response here and Pams deference to it, suggests that he may be acting out scenes from his own childhood; his voice and rhythm of speech changes and he almost seems to adopt a new personality.

12

I am suspicious of Andrews tone and ask him if these measures have yet been taken:
Int: mmm and that and thats happened already? Youve already kind of Andrew: No we havent. Finbar weve had to say no more computer, weve taken the tele out of his room and stuff. Cabrini has been quite lucky so far. Touch wood!

From a position of resolute disciplinary action, we find that in reality there is a contradictory, more dilute set of circumstances. This suggests that computer use has gradually been accepted as the norm: the older brother isnt a stranger to sanctions, whereas the younger sister is getting away with it. Andrew attributes this to luck but in fact it might just be the slow but persistent agency of social processes, the gradual normalization of SNS and computer use, as ritualistic and endemic as the television being on all the time in certain households and the family phone being in constant use, as he references later.
Pam: Well yeah but I do, I do get worried about how much she goes on Facebook cos shell go on it straight, when she comes from school. Shes been with her friends all day, as soon as she gets in, shell put her bag down and she logs onto the computer and it does worry me but then Im not really up to computers, so I you know she says: Oh Mum, Im doing so and so

Pam relates the after-school ritual with quizzical resignation. It seems that discourses around computers render her parentally impotent necessitating a new level of mother/daughter trust, but in conditions which are unintelligible to her. The implication here is an internalizing and resisting of circulating discourses: sadly for Pam, they constitute a sense of self in perpetual conflict.
Andrew: Yeah but its the same as with ... I used to get in and phone my friends from school, when I was allowed to use the phone, cos in my in our when we were young teenagers that was it, youd come in straight from school and on the phone to your friends and mum and dad would say: But youve just been with them all day? its using different gadgets to do the same thing innit communicate really but they do spend too long on computers a bit of that could be cos I wanna use the computers.

Rose asserts that: Discursive formations have structures but that does not necessarily imply that they are logical or coherent (2003: 164). Andrew illustrates this by contradicting what he said earlier. Whereas before he was adamant that there was no correlation between his and his childrens social experiences, he now claims a distinct similarity between present and past forms of communication. Its not unusual to change ones mind but whats interesting here is that having conceded ground, he then feels the need to retreat to his previously safe authoritarian subject position: but they do spend too long on computers (for his wifes sake?) and then introduces an additional layer of interpretation in the form of hierarchical power issues a bit of that could be cos I wanna use the computers.

13

A further complicating factor is the possibility that he was drawing on interpretative repertoires (Buckingham, 1993) by vocalizing the accepted boundaries responsible parents should impose on their childrens computer use and his perceptions of what he thought I wanted to hear for my research. He knows my personal stance on aspects of SNS from earlier conversations. This foregrounds the impact of context whilst interpreting data and the need to monitor it. It also begs the question as to how differently the couple may have interviewed on a one-to-one basis, without the pressures of identity politics.
Int: Well yes ... a few kind of power issues maybe

This is an example of the interviewer inadvertently leading the interviewee with her own intellectual baggage effecting a somewhat defensive, retaliatory response.
Andrew: Yeah but I tell them to get off and they do, but er but they do I mean I do think Cabrini uses Facebook more than I would like Int: What do you think she does on it? Andrew: Just Rubbish!

This is a key question in terms of how parents interpret their childrens activities. Andrews comment echoes d. boyds work on SNS where she comments on parents tendency to devalue teens online activities, but she then suggests that this clash of values may be unwarranted: It is easy to lambaste teens for accepting the cultural norms of the in crowd, but social categories and status negotiation are core elements in teen life (boyd, 2008: 133) Jo in Interview 2 understands this, and respects her sons privacy and exploratory practices on SNS: Its a private place for him and I remember as a child having lots of private places from my parents and I dont think he wants that being scrutinized by his mum its very much in his control Pam is less accommodating of SNS and anxiety pervades her narrative, this firmly aligns her with media discourses on the risk factors:
I dont deal with computers or anything but I hear stories and I read about people who get bullied on the computer and I that worries me cos I think, you know and I say to Cabrini Be Careful what you say

Indeed the parents in Interview 4 have the same concerns, with talk of stalking their children, albeit flippantly, when they start using SNS

14

in order to retain a measure of control and to fend off the big bad
world.

Many of the largely middle-class survey responses below share Jos more celebratory, less alarmist view, highlighting continuity in contemporary adolescence:
As a parent I would say get online join in and interact. it is as natural as when we used to talk to our friends on the telephone SNS just replaces other influencing matters in family dynamics in the past. Nothing new. Just modern.

Some revealed a negotiated approach to SNS with a but proviso:


Drives me mad but I do see the benefits of our daughter feeling like she belongs to this 21st century. I tweet and Facebook but dont stay online long

others more direct control and surveillance. All approaches both positive and negative were articulated from within the accepted mores of modern parenting:
Children (12 and 10) not allowed on it. I want them to be around 'in person'. Homework and work already takes-up too much time. Maybe an hour a day on the internet when they're older and more at weekends. Lots of arguments about getting off it and doing homework or chores in the house. time spent with face in a laptop and/or blackberry can be irritating to parents. Full attention of the child is not gained.

It is also interesting to see in both data sets the involvement of the school as arbiter and judge in what is at root a domestic issue (see Andrews comments above):
I think parents think this generation of children is very computer savvy but a recent thread on facebook was reported to the head of year at my school and the most unpleasant things uncovered ending in an exclusion.

Its evident that as the outside is increasingly construed as a place of danger (ref. Interview 4 going outside, going online youre exposed to the unknown) more time and money is spent embellishing the home as a sanctuary with media-rich leisure activities in compensation (Livingstone, 2009: 14). Such encroachments are complicated further by the online risk interpellation, tapping into parental concerns over the safety of unsupervised children using social media. See The Sun , The Guardian and The Daily Mail headlines fomenting fear and suspicion:

15

I always worry about her meeting strangers online. It's so easy to excite and tempt her into new worlds; but my main strategy is to encourage real friends, so that she doesn't feel inclined to look further. Worry about cyber bullying / chat room fakes / exposing personal details SNS also opens up a whole new avenue for bullying which is worrying.

Hall would argue that as audiences decode the medias hyperbolic reinforcement of the dangers of SNS, they are at the same time absorbing the encoded message - that we need protecting and that this will be enacted via existing power structures with the overall effect of sustaining social difference and social order. Conversely, teen responses offer a rather more anodyne, balanced outlook, problematising and neutralising negative adult perceptions:
Basically...it's just a way of un-boreding myself. I use it for sharing photos with my friends (only friends) chatting with friends, and running a fan page for me and my friend music Commenting on photos and light hearted banter. But a little interaction with friends and having a larrfff can't be that bad, can it?

In summary I would say that the 3 survey responses from children were of more value in terms of challenging prevailing assumptions and that if I were to pursue the research study I would design a survey to be completed by children aged between 12 (i.e. those who flout Facebook age rules) and 16 (the old hands). Although the study focused on the parents, I believe that the data would have been theoretically richer by including the young persons voice in a more concerted way. However, the logistical problems of including children in this research were the key constraints. Clearly SNS are a site of meaning-making struggle between the generations, one where a complex nexus of discourses vie for value, if only provisional, within our sense of self and in our presentation of self, within certain contexts and in relation to certain institutions. The result of this dichotomy is sensed in Pams tension, visually and vocally: in the insecurity of her hesitations and in the unwavering clarity and safety of

16

her convictions. Foucault would interpret Pams state as the embodiment of a transient endpoint in a matrices of power relations: the points, knots or focuses of resistance are spread over time and space at varying densities producing cleavages in a society that shift about furrowing across individuals themselves, cutting them up and remoulding them, marking off irreducible regions in them, in their bodies and minds the swarm of points of resistance traverses social stratifications and individual unities (Storey, 2006: 315) Conclusion It is hoped that this research project has been a principled exploration (Gray, 2003: 176) of discourses which normally remain dense and obscure. Historically generations have had conflicting perspectives on social change, as has been evidenced in the data: some parents appreciate the continuities therein, others are consumed with generational difference, but Herring reminds us of the interdependence and worth of both perspectives: Youth cannot easily comprehend the magnitude of this change, whereas adults cannot easily forget it. Both direct immersion in experience and a historical comparative perspective are important, however, in moving into the future. (Herring, 2008: 83) Beck talks of a current of detraditionalisations (Livingstone, 2008: 13) in society which are felt perhaps more keenly in the home than anywhere else. Traditional domestic values and mores appear subsumed by commerce and new technologies and local institutions are even implicated in domestic ruptures. It seems to me that anxiety is built into the status quo which keeps us focusing inwards whilst casting around for blame, blame that is so often placed on media channels. This imbalance is

17

then socially processed and becomes normalized via the medium through which it was manufactured. The research process calls a halt on this momentum illuminating its compact layers, and in so doing opens up new and unexpected avenues of enquiry, not only for the cultural benefit of society but also the intellectual benefit of the interviewer, equipping him/her for deeper investigation. The more that is invested in qualitative research, blind alleys (Hall) and all, the more disposed we are to question the notion of what is normal and to reaffirm that the socially engineered macro is ever present in the minutiae of everyday living and social wellbeing. The fact that social research findings and to a certain extent methodologies seem to date surprisingly quickly is a measure of how important it is for the process to be continually revised and refined as well for the researcher to be increasingly self-reflexive, the better to secure findings of inspiring and enduring resonance. ___________________________________________________________________________ Bibliography boyd, d (2008) Why Youth h Social Network Sites: The Role of Networked Publics in Teenage Social Life in D. Buckingham (ed) Youth, Identity and Digital Media, MacArthur Foundation Series Benedict, R (1934) Patterns of Culture Bryman, A (2008) Social Research Methods Buckingham, D (1993) Children Talking Television Gillespie M & Toynbee, J (2006) Analysing Media Texts Gray, A (2003) Research Practice for Cultural Studies Herring, S C (2008) Questioning the Generational Divide: Technological Exoticism and Adult Constructions of Online Youth Identity in D. Buckingham (ed) Youth, Identity and Digital Media, MacArthur Foundation Series

Livingstone, S (2009) Children and the Internet Rose, G (2007) Visual Methodologies

18

Silverstone & Hirsch (1992) Consuming Technologies: Media and Information in Domestic Spaces Storey, J (2008) Cultural Theory and Popular Culture A Reader 4th Edition

Appendix 1 - Web References

Appendix 2 - Interview Questions and rationale

Appendix 3 - Informed Consent Form

Appendix 4 - Notes on participants

19

Appendix 1

Web References:
Stuart Hall quotation: http://cultstud.blogspot.com/2007/09/stuart-hall-cultural-studies-andits.html

Location of interview video footage: http://www.madcan.com/michelle_interviews.mov Location of online survey: http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/W7JWMHR Sun Facebook headline: http://www.thesun.co.uk/sol/homepage/news/2891220/Facebook-killerPeter-Chapman-not-a-risk-raped-girl-was-told.html The Guardian article: http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2009/feb/24/social-networking-sitechanging-childrens-brains

The Daily Mail article: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-1149207/How-using-Facebookraise-risk-cancer.html

20

Appendix 2

Interview Questions and rationale:


What role do social networking sites play in the intergenerational and parent/child relationships in everyday life? Looking back at your own childhood, what memories do you have of socialising with friends?

With this general discursive question Id like the participant to reflect on their own memories of being a child and the contexts in which they hung out with friends, so as to be able to compare their own experience with that of their children. Do you see any parallels between your social experiences as a child and those of your child / children?

By asking this question I am encouraging the participant to see possible continuities in terms of childhood experiences rather than the more prevalent differences that so often characterise discourses around young people growing up these days. SHOW PHOTOGRAPH OF A CHILDS BEDROOM MEDIA TOOLKIT IN USE Tell me about yours and your childs use of media and technology both inside and outside the home.

This is a broad open-ended question to elicit as much information as possible about the range of media used in the family. It will introduce the idea of media use and establish the parents views on technology. If social networking sites (SNS) are not mentioned at this stage, I will raise the topic and ask them what they perceive as the advantages and disadvantages of the use of SNS in particular. This may reveal the extent to which technology as a whole is exoticised / othered by parents and may contribute to a sense of distance between parent and child. Is the use of SNS an accepted part of the daily routine for some members of the family?

From the general advantages and disadvantages of SNS I move to a more personal and specific account of their childs perceived use of SNS to reveal how parents really feel about it. Depending on how forthcoming the participant is I would explore some of the following strands: What does the parent think happens during SNS online activity? Does the parent in fact also use SNS? What for? Are SNS

21

ever used as a means of controlling the child in any way? Are there ever any arguments about the use of SNS? Any particular relevant story they can tell from current home situation or from their own childhood? Are you ever invited in to participate in / witness their childs online activity? How do they respond to their childs multitasking with homework? If we consider a 9-year-old child who is eager to create their first Facebook profile, what advice would you give to the parents?

The answer to this question may shed light on understandings that will be passed on to parents who may not want to limit their childs social development but who also wish to keep their child safe. In the context of rapid advances in new media and communication technology, do you have any particular hopes and fears for the ways in which people relate to each other or society might develop as a whole?

Asking this rounding off question at the end is an opportunity for the participant to voice any other seemingly random feelings / observations on social changes and their child. I would ask if the participant had any questions to ask for me at this stage in an effort to ease off and withdraw gently from the focus being on them if I do end up videoing Id leave the camera running for as long as I could comfortably get away with in case any further gems were offered in a less formal: No but really. environment.

22

Appendix 3

Informed Consent Form


Face-to-Face Networking Sites Semi-Structured Interview: Social

Name: _____________________________ Location: ___________________________

Date: _________________________

I am conducting research regarding the role social networking sites play in the intergenerational parent/child relationship in every day life for the Social Research module of my MA studies. Three or four couples/individuals will be included in the study. Participation is voluntary and will require answering a few questions about you, your past and current media related activities as well as those of your children. THERE ARE NO RIGHT OR WRONG ANSWERS and you will in no way be judged on account of what you say. Your answers will be kept confidential and individual names will not be included. You can refuse to answer any question or to stop the interview at any time. Withdrawing from the project will not result in any negative consequences for you. Essentially your participation poses no risks to you. Your answers and/or video footage may be used anonymously - in a group discussion and may also be included in submitted written work. If you wish to see how you have been represented before submittal of any work, this can be arranged. Any interview data will be securely stored on my laptop and destroyed after completion of the course. Further consent will be sought if data is to be placed in the public domain. The interview will take approximately 20 minutes of your time. If you have questions about the project you may ask me at any time. Do you wish to participate? By your signature below, you agree to participate in the study. _____________________________________________________________________ Participant signature / Date

Interviewers signature / Date

23

24

Appendix 4

Background information on Participants & Recording Processes


Interview 1 Pam and Andrew A middle-aged couple who have lived in Hackney, East London all their lives. Pam was born in the Caribbean and Andrew has a rich Irish heritage. Their marriage was very much frowned upon in both their family circles. They both come from a working class background. Pam worked on the markets from an early age and fell pregnant as a teenager. She has worked as a child minder for many years. She has 2 children with Andrew a girl aged 13 and a boy aged 17. Andrew went to university as an adult and now works as a social worker in the field of family welfare. I met Pam and Andrew through my involvement with our childrens secondary school Parent Teacher Association. I took over the PTA Chairs position from Andrew and have known them for nearly 3 years. The interview took place at their home in the kitchen; from experience, the site of much chat and general socialising. They suggested this as a venue and were clearly happier to be interviewed in this context than anywhere else. They are a particularly welcoming and hospitable couple. As it turned out Pam seemed more relaxed in front of the camera than Andrew and it felt more like a chat than a formal interview. What was gained by videoing Pam and Andrew was an insight into the dynamics of their relationship as there was more interaction than in the interview referenced below. I would say that emotions are more readily captured on film than simply audio and Pams anxieties through gesture and facial expressions were all the more deeply transmitted through this medium. We also saw how Andrew leant back and allowed Pam to lead much of the interview process, which is suggestive of their parenting styles. Interview 2 Jo A middle-aged, middle-class professional woman who I have known for 14 years and with whom I used to be neighbours. We met at ante-natal yoga and have provided each other with much needed support over the years. I value her insight, articulateness and what I regard as down-to-earth motherly wisdom. She has been a London theatre director and a BBC film and documentary maker and now works in Arts funding. She is a single mum with 2 sons aged 13 and 18. The former has severe learning difficulties, the latter was privately educated to 16, is now at a state school doing ALevels and has an offer of a place at Cambridge. The interview was at my house in Hackney, East London. Jo needed to be away from her family context to be able to devote all her attention to the interview. She went into work-mode and helped set up the camera and improved the lighting; although shes a good friend, the process felt more 25

formal and business-like. She was the most composed in front of the camera unsurprisingly and I remain unconvinced by how much was gained by videoing Jo, that would not have been gained by simply recording her voice. Interview 3 Mia A 38 year old middle-class woman who has worked as a manager in the charity sector for most of her professional career. We met while our children were at nursery together and we have known one another for 10 years. Another insightful lady with strong views. She is a single mum with a 13 year old daughter. The interview took place in Mias front room in Hackney, East London shed just moved house and there was barely any furniture to sit on. Just in case we need reminding of the everydayness of the material and the context of the normal under discussion, there was a washing machine going on in the background. She seemed confident during the interview but then collapsed into fits of giggles when I turned off the camcorder. Although her answers were genuine, she felt put on the spot and tongue-tied in places, because of the filming. She is the only participant for whom I feel audio only may have worked better. Interestingly, she did a lot of drama in the past and perhaps this process was reminiscent of nerves before and during performance. This is an example of how contingency can affect research findings. Interview 4 Rachel and Tim Rachel and Tim are a middle-class couple who are neighbours along my street. I have known them since they moved to this area several years ago. Rachel works in the banking sector and Tim is a carpenter. They have 3 boys under 10. I thought it would be interesting to see how a family whose children are not yet using SNS viewed the phenomenon. The interview took place in their kitchen one evening. Just to see how it panned out I used the Flip camera to record audio only; Rachel did say she really wouldnt have minded being videoed but I told her it was a question of using different research methods and not for any other reason. Listening to their voices seemed to concentrate the mind on any hesitations or inflection in their voices. There was a moment when their son came down from the bedroom asking for water: listening to the recording subsequently, this was a significant and sweet moment as one is reminded of the sheer authenticity of the material. We are used to seeing informal, unrehearsed and unedited video material on TV and the internet but the aural media to which we are exposed, i.e. spoken radio output, is normally tightly and professionally edited and produced. Any silences are acutely felt and one is forced to feel the limbo and fill it with spontaneous meaning. The fact that I used a video camera for audio also

26

felt quite odd as if I was defiantly rejecting its perceived superior functionality.

27