From occasion to obsession: the connection between relationships, media literacy and the changing use of computer mediated communication from 2005-2018

Dempsey, Lauren (2021) From occasion to obsession: the connection between relationships, media literacy and the changing use of computer mediated communication from 2005-2018. PhD thesis, University of Nottingham.

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2005-2018 saw an era of rapid technological change, particularly with regards to digital media and computer mediated communication (CMC). During this time mobile phone ownership grew, the internet became a key utility in UK homes, and the development of various online platforms – such as email, video calling and social media – led to CMC use becoming increasingly normalised. Academics and regulators queried how best to promote media literacy skills in this ever-changing media landscape, where rapidly changing forms of CMC meant it was increasingly difficult to determine how and why literacy skills were developed.

This thesis is based on a collaboration with the UK Communications Regulator Ofcom. It examines how the use of CMC between 2005-2018 shaped relationships, and, in turn, how relationships shaped CMC use. It uses data from Ofcom’s Adults’ Media Lives (AML) longitudinal project, consisting of filmed footage from annual in-home interviews with the same 18 participants. This thesis finds that initial access to CMC and facilitating technology was often the result of encouragement – or coercion – from loved ones. As use increased and numerous communication platforms emerged, many participants managed their different relationships across multiple platforms, forming their own norms and etiquette for CMC use. Those who misunderstood these norms faced isolation and ostracization in both online and offline spaces, drastically impacting on their relationships. Over time, public discourses around CMC use, such as negative news coverage regarding online bullying, addiction and security threats, became as impactful as personal negative experiences. Participants were often unsure of how to respond to CMC-related moral panics, caught between the desire to protect themselves and loved ones from supposed dangers online, and the perceived need to continue to use CMC to conduct said relationships.

This thesis provides a deeper insight into the complex connection between CMC use and relationships. The longitudinal exploration uncovers how and why the same people alter their usage of and attitudes towards CMC over time, and how relationships factor into this change. It considers how the wider socio-cultural climate shaped the personal experiences each participant had as their relationships and CMC use fluctuated year-on-year. The increased use of CMC and facilitating technology between 2005-2018 both helped and hindered participants’ relationships and literacy skills. On the one hand, the increased expectation of use often caused conflict for participants, where they struggled with the financial and social pressure to constantly adopt developing technology, felt uncomfortable engaging with certain CMC and online public platforms, or feared for their own and loved ones’ wellbeing. However, relationships also played a positive role in the uptake and use of CMC. They were often the motivators of initial purchase, providing lessons and skills to build confidence, literacy and use. In turn CMC use acted as a connecting link between participants and their relationships as they grew older, moved around the UK and shifted life stage. Understanding this complex and dynamic connection provides new insight into how media literacy is developed with CMC, by revealing relationships as a vital component in this process.

Item Type: Thesis (University of Nottingham only) (PhD)
Supervisors: Evans, Elizabeth
Birks, Jen
Keywords: computer mediated communication, digital media, media literary skills, Ofcom
Subjects: H Social sciences > HM Sociology
P Language and literature > P Philology. Linguistics
Faculties/Schools: UK Campuses > Faculty of Arts > School of Humanities
Item ID: 65117
Depositing User: Dempsey, Lauren
Date Deposited: 04 Aug 2021 04:41
Last Modified: 04 Aug 2021 04:41

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