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Family (dis ) harmony in front of the computer screen. Tanja Oblak Črnič, Associate Professor, University of Ljubljana E-mail contact: tanja.oblak@fdv.uni-lj.si. Research framework and questions. Relations between computer technology and private sphere:

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Family dis harmony in front of the computer screen l.jpg

Family (dis)harmony infront of the computer screen

Tanja Oblak Črnič,

Associate Professor, University of Ljubljana

E-mail contact: tanja.oblak@fdv.uni-lj.si


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Research framework and questions

  • Relations between computer technology and private sphere:

    • Computer technology (CT) as important factor in the construction of private home

    • CT subject of constant domestication

  • Questions:

    • How the families accept CT into their own “domestic culture”?

    • What are the main differences in the understanding the role of CT between the parents and younger family members?


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Analytical level

  • The process of domestication presupposes the analysis of reasons, motives and patterns of adopting CT

  • Taking into account the generational, gender, and status differences between the members of a given household

  • The domestication of CT is not only

    »about appropriating objects to the self, but is about how we make ourselves at home, how we make them habitable and comfortable, and use objects to manage the social world« (Lalley 2002:2).


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Material cultures of home

  • New technologies (NT) give new characteristics and meanings to the private sphere.

  • Users are integrated into the network of relations between the private and the public spheres of social life:

    • the systems of structures controlling the production and distribution of software and hardware equipments

    • the user is confronted with the process of consumption and usage of technological artifacts –in work and home environment

  • Consequently, differentiated ways of use and different potentials of integration emerge.


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Perspectives of adoption of NT

  • Theories of diffusion and adoption (Rogers and Larsen 1984; Rogers 1995; Green 2000)

  • Model of domestication (Silverstone and Hirsh 1992; Lalley 2002; Bakardjieva 2005)

  • Social biography of technologies (Kopytoff 1986; Green 2000)


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Process of domestication

  • Household as a “moral economy”;

  • Production of technologies does not end with the dispersion of CT, but it continues in the consumption at home;

  • 4 phases:

    • Appropriation/adoption

    • Objectification

    • Incorporation

    • Conversion


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Computer cultures in the families today

  • The usage of CT is shaped at least by:

    • Existing family practices

    • Technologically determined context of family consumption

    • Transformative nature of CT


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Research method

  • Recent ethnografic studies of usage of CT:

    • Screenplay project in UK, 1998-2000 (Facer at al. 2003), interviews with 18 youngsters and their parents

    • Interviews with 23 volunteers in Canadian homes (Bakardjieva 2005)

    • Interviews with 18 members of 9 Slovene families (Nov.-Dec. 2006)


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Functional roles of CT

1. CT as an extension of the parents’ work

Ex: “Yes, I needed the computer mainly because of my work. I have my own firm and this requires a great deal of work at home. I think this was the main reason for the purchase.” (father of two children, 52).

2. CT as an opportunity for the children

Ex: “Yes, we bought the computer mainly for the children, because they needed it for their school work. (…) I think my son wanted to have a computer more than any of us.” (father of three children, 50).

3. CT as an inevitable investment for the future

Ex: “The reason for the purchase was a very simple one: we needed a computer. It was popular, many people had it already, it was supposed to bring us advantages. So, we bought one. It was necessary, just like a TV.” (father of three children, 45)


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Conflicting sides of CT

1. CT as an intruder

Ex: “The computer represented great fun and an adrenalin rush along with the desire to learn new things. My husband enjoyed the computer, as well, and at the same time it made his work easier. Personally, I have always considered the computer as an intruder and I am still not very fond of it.” (mother of two children, 50)

2. CT as a trouble-maker

Ex:“I’ve lost my temper several times, because there is nobody I can talk to. Everyone sits behind their ‘box’ and surfs the Internet, etc. Sometimes it seems as if we are complete strangers. Even when we quarrel, we never talk about it afterwards, because everyone pretends to be busy behind their computer and supposedly does not have time to talk. Sometimes I am so angry about all thistechnological progress!” (mother of two daughters, 47)

3. CT as an inappropriate comforter

Ex: “… I have noticed several times that, after a quarrel, my children find comfort in computer games, which I do not approve of. I would rather see them crying on their beds than sitting in front of the computer screen, because this is certainly not the right solution.” (father of three children, 45)


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Ambivalent roles of CT for youngsters

1. “transitional nature” of CT – from “only a toy” to “a multi-tool”:

Ex: “At the beginning the computer was a toy. However, today this toy has acquired a new meaning. It has become a multi-tool for everything from searching for seminar essays, to free-time activities and chatting with friends. I have even flirted with girls in various chat-rooms. I also use the computer for searching music and movies, which I then listen to or watch on the computer, as well. Everything is possible if you have a computer.” (the middle son, 16)

2. “ambivalent” role of CT:

Ex: “When I got my computer, it was just a new toy, which I did not really need and it served mostly for playing computer games. Now it represents a trouble, because I have to write different school papers and assignments.” (the younger daughter, 18).

3. CT “should not be blamed”:

Ex: “Maybe we do not talk as much as we used to, since everyone is in his or her own corner, doing things for work or for school. (…) We are so preoccupied with ourselves that we do not find the time for deep discussions any more, but I think that the reason for this is not the computer. It is just how things are today; people, rushing and not having any time for each other.” (the youngest daughter, 17)


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The list of the main references

  • Bakardjieva, Maria (2005): Internet Society: The Internet in everyday life. London: Sage.

  • Facer, Keri, John Furlong, Ruth Furlong, Rosamund Sutherland (2003): ScreenPlay: Children and Computing in the home. London: RoutledgeFalmer.

  • Green, Leila (2000): Communication, Technology and Society. London: Sage.

  • Lalley, Elaine (2002): At home with computers. Oxford: Berg.

  • Silverstone, Roger in Eric Hirsch (1992): Consuming technologies: media and information in domestic space. London: Routledge.