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On the Classified and Classifying Consumption of Digital Media: Initial Findings from a Comparative Case Study of Young Men in Sweden
Halmstad University, School of Social and Health Sciences (HOS), Centre for Studies of Political Science, Communication and Media (CPKM).ORCID iD: 0000-0002-3070-4717
2010 (English)Conference paper (Refereed)
Abstract [en]

New media in general and the internet in particular are regularly ascribed with various democratizing potentials. According to politicians, journalists, marketers and even some academics, the proliferation of internet access (via broadband) will bring about a shift in the power relations between media industries and media consumers, between governments and citizens, between professionals and amateurs, etc. Young people are often conceptualized as a driving force in this change, in so far as growing up in this new communication environment is considered enough for making real the potentials of new media. These simplistic ideas draw from technological deterministic assumptions and must be put into question by detailed empirical analyses. Although this has been done to a certain extent, previous research on young people’s consumption of new media has tended to focus on their creative, playful and more or less particular (or peripheral) digital interpretations and interactions. The social structures producing and reproducing themselves through (the lack of) these interactions, on the other hand, have seldom been taken into account. By and large, questions of social power relations such as class, gender and race/ethnicity are missing. Building primarily on the ideas of technology-as-text as elaborated within the context of cultural studies and on Pierre Bourdieu’s sociology of culture – including concepts such as habitus, capital (economic, cultural, social, symbolic), social fields, symbolic power, etc. – my PhD project constitutes an attempt to fill this gap. More specifically, it aims at qualitatively examining the ways in which 16-18 years old Swedish boys with different positions in social space conceive, relate to and make use of the internet as a differentiating and potentially enabling technology in their everyday lives. This will be done through a series of case studies. This paper presents and problematizes some initial findings from a pilot study carried out in the autumn of 2009, when twelve young men from four upper secondary schools (preparing either for further education or directly for the working life) in one of Sweden’s largest cities were interviewed individually. An intercultural comparison between boys occupying different positions in social space (i.e. the discernible volume and composition of their families’ accumulated capital) reveal divergent perceptions of the school, further education and one’s future more generally, which also tend to have a bearing on their readings of the internet. The preliminary analyses suggest that, in general, these socially structured readings of the internet are carried out in ways that serve to reproduce existing power relations rather than dissolving them. The boys from families with large cultural capital perceive the internet as a resource for accumulating forms of capital that can be employed in the struggle for positions to which they aspire. For example, they stress its various possibilities for learning. The boys having less cultural capital at their disposal, on the other hand, often articulate a narrower outlook, reducing the new technology to an instrument for immediate amusement or just passing time. Hence, the democratizing potentials of new media seem to be unequally realized. 

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
National Category
Media and Communications
URN: urn:nbn:se:hh:diva-14061OAI: diva2:383535
3rd European Communication Conference, ECREA, Hamburg, October 12-15, 2010
Available from: 2011-08-30 Created: 2011-01-05 Last updated: 2016-03-09Bibliographically approved

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