Understanding how information and communication technologies matter to youth : a network of developmental, social and technological dynamics




Maczewski, Mechthild

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This dissertation explores the questions: (l) how use of specific information and communication technologies (ICT) matters to youth, (2) how use of these ICT is experienced by youth and (3) how youth conceptualize their relations to ICT in their daily lives. It provides a networked perspective that emphasizes youth's experiences of ICT in contexts. This networked perspective focuses on the dynamic connections between adolescent development, societal change and technological innovations when understanding youth's ICT use. Such a perspective positions youth as nexus in online and offline relational networks. It recognizes youth as actors who experience intense emotions when using ICT and who learn skills to navigate and negotiate these networks. Simultaneously, it situates youth's experiences of ICT use as emergent from adolescent, societal and technological contexts and within continuous cultural change. Methodologically, this study draws on multi-sited ethnographic research practices (Marcus, 1998; 2005) as well as being guided by the notion of congruency between site, methodology, and phenomenon (Oberg, 2003). Data was primarily gathered through four interviews held with six youth aged 16-18, two focus groups, and the researcher's immersion over five years in the Computer Human Interaction Software Engineering Lab (CHISEL). Three themes of how ICT use matters to youth emerged: Fun, Convenience and Connections. These themes illuminate how ICT have multiple ways of mattering for young people within their unique life contexts, such as providing continued connections to peers after school and shifting spatial and temporal boundaries. Patterns of emotional experience emerged that encompassed simultaneous existence of contradictory emotions (e.g., stimulating and overwhelming) when engaged in a specific activity such as instant messaging. Examples of Self-ICT relations are: "We're immersed" and "I feel empty without it." These conceptualizations are linked to networked theories of self that constitute ICT as in relation to self. This dissertation concludes by applying a networked perspective to understanding youth's ICT use as well as stepping back in order to raise larger cultural questions. It argues for the importance of recognizing the complexities that shape human — ICT connections in order to assist youth in learning skills to negotiate their emergent sense of self successfully.



internet, teenagers, social aspects