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Media Generations

The communicative construction of communities in mediatized worlds

Leader: Prof. Dr. Andreas Hepp

ZeMKI Lab "Media Culture and Globalization"

Funded by the DFG

Today’s mediatized worlds offer various opportunities to experience media and corresponding communitization. After analyzing the mediatized horizons of communitization among younger (16-30 years) and elderly people (retirees above 60 years) in the previous funding periods, the project focus is now extended to the middle-agers. Middle-agers could be described as people between 31 and 59 years. First, the study analyzes the everyday communicative networking practices of middle-aged people, regarding how their mediatized horizons of communitization are changing related to the appropriation of (digital) media. Second, the study examines the challenges, middle-agers are facing in the context of their mediatized communitization, e.g. their communicative demarcation, their communicative mobility and their communicative participation.

As part of the priority program 1505 “Mediatized Worlds” the project deals with communicative networking and community building. Methodically, we apply a qualitative network analysis, integrating interviews, open network drawings and media diaries. Our sample contains 160 cases and consists of younger (16 – 30), elderly (retired and older than 60 years) as well as middle-aged (31 – 59 years) people. The project aims at clarifying the role of media for the construction of mediatized horizons of community building (the total of communities a person feels they belong to) in a cross-generational perspective.

Our central argument is an understanding of media generation as process. Media generation, we suggest, can be understood as a thickening of one or several age groups of people, who share a specifc realm of experience concerning mediatization as well as a generational self-understanding based on their media biography. Thus, media generation can be characterized as a process, since on the one hand experiences are made continuously at different stages of life while on the other hand, as far as our observations go, media generational self-understanding can be described as an ongoing “doing”. In our defnition of media generation, three aspects are of major importance: Firstly, media relatedness means that our propositions refer to characteristic media experiences of a generation only, and not to its general realm of experience. Secondly, media generation operates with a certain generational specifcity of media appropriation. That does not mean that all members of a media generation show homogenous practices of media use. Rather, generational specifcity is marked by certain constellations of appropriation, which show typical traits of transformation throughout the course of life. Finally, media generational positioning stands for a collectively shared perspective on one’s media generation. This implies that the members of a media generation relate themselves to other media generations. Against the background of formative media environments during childhood and youth as well as different stages of the life-course at the point when digitization as the latest wave of mediatization is established, we can differentiate at least three media generations: the “digital media generation”, the “secondary digital media generation” and the “mass media generation”. Our data suggest that the role media play for community building differs in those three media generations. On the one hand, younger individuals use a much bigger range of media for communicative networking, compared to older people. On the other hand, the variety of media repertoires (from rather “classic” up to fully digital) for connecting to one‘s horizon of mediatization is much bigger among the elderly. Those observations show that mediatization does not simply result in a one-dimensional transformation of community building. To put it more concretely, also the “digital media generation” uses “new media” to connect to usual horizons of communitization. Thus, digitization as the latest wave of mediatization does have a fundamental influence on the role of media for community building across generations. However, what we call horizons of mediatized community building, stay surprisingly stable.

 

: Prof. Dr. Andreas Hepp
Prof. Dr.

Andreas Hepp

Institution Centre for Media, Communication and Information Research of the University of Bremen (ZeMKI)

Building/room: LINZ4
Phone: +49 (0) 421 218 676 20
E-Mail: andreas.hepp[at]uni-bremenprotect me ?!.de