Youth and digital life styles

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The perspective of digital lifestyles groups researchers who look at online everyday practices, connectivity, mobility, and uses of social media by young people. Some of the researchers from this perspective have emphasized the unique characteristics of the youth that uses digital media and have even labeled with names such as the "Net Generation" (Tapscott) or "Digital Natives" (Palfrey and Gasser).

In Growing up Digitally, (1998) Tapscott argues that young people growing up with the internet are very different from any generation before them (baby-boomer adults). For Tapscoot, everyday use of digital technology has an impact in the personalities and identities, including their attitudes and approach to learning. He has a kind of technological determinist approach to the analysis of youth and digital media. For him, the major shift is the change from broadcast to interactive tehcnology. Emphasizing the fact that the new generation uses computers instead of television sets, Tapscott situates youth in an interactive world where they are not just viewer of listeners but also, and overall, users. According to him, child development has changed due to new digital media, especially the computer and the Internet. He argues that young people is getting more knowledgeable, that they believe strongly in individual rights such as privacy and rights to information, and that they are developing strong values towards collaboration, interpersonal networks, and social responsibility.

In Born Digital (2008), Palfrey and Gasser use the term "digital natives" to refer to all youth born after 1980, particularly, the youth that is born in postindustrial societies and belong to the elites. According to them, because this youth has grown up using social digital technologies, they have developed specific practices and skills such as multitasking, sharing of information, and creation of new knowledge and new art forms. Digital media technologies have become mediators of major aspects of teen’s life such as social interactions, friendships, and civic activities. Palfrey and Gasser explain that digital natives relate to information different, they perceive it as malleable, they can control it and reshape it. The authors also point out that youth are constantly connected and they rely on the connected space for getting all the information they need. As Palfrey and Gasser point out, digital natives are "connected to each other in terms of how they relate to information, how they relate to new technologies, and how they relate to one another." (13) The authors express their concern for the existing inequalities in accessing technology and learning the skills of digital natives. They recognize the existing of a digital divide not only between poor and rich countries, but also inside the rich countries themselves. They claim that the biggest concern is the impact of participation gap between "those who are Digital Natives and those who are the same age, but who are not learning about digital technologies and living their lives in the same way." (14) For the authors "the costs of leaving the participation gap unaddressed over time will be higher than we should be willing to bear." (15)

In The Young and the Digital (2009), Craig Watkins, has looked at the youth digital life style by researching the use of social media among American youth. Using the results of a multiyear study, he argues that young people go online to maintain existing relationships with their peers and shows that the participation in online communities necessarily does not lead to social isolation. According to him, social media extend and complement off-line relationships. He states, "life in the online world is intricately connected to life in the off-line world. It always has been and it always will be." (155) By examining how young people use Facebook, MySpace, and World of Warcraft, he reveals that digital mediated interactions are more about interacting with real people rather than with virtual personas, more about doing and sharing with friends than meeting strangers. In his study, Watkins also points out the fluid aspect of the digital lifestyle. Showing how young people moves back and forth between different SNS such as MySpace and Facebook, he claims that being digital means "being fluid and in a constant state of evolution."(95) By participating in different online communities and engaging with social media, young people is able to manage different identities and networks.

In Young People and New Media (2002), Sonia Livingstone, present the analysis of a one year (1997-1998) field study of young users of ICTs across different context such as leisure, home, and family. Using an ecological approach to the study of media, she looks at how youth experiences a mediated live. Analyzing the contexts where young people uses new media, Livingstone describes the multiplication of personally-owned media and the diversification of media forms and contents. She notices the blurring of previously distinct social realms such as home/work, entertainment/information, and education/leisure. The blurring and convergence could be understood as a result of a digital media lifestyle. According to her, due to the development of interactive technologies and the convergence of multiple media formats, there is an increased individualization in the consumption of new media. Towards the end of her book, Livingstone also addresses the theme of literacies in relation to the hypermediated lives that youth is experiencing, and highlights the transformation of the "once-mass audience" into "participatory users of information and communication technologies." According to her, since the contexts of home, family, and leisure have become very important for learning and practicing literacies, researchers and policy makers should try to understand the nature and diversity of domestic practices surrounding new media.

Researchers from this perspective have also looked at the information-seeking practices that youth is constantly doing with digital media. In “Toward a model of the everyday life information needs of urban teenagers," (2006) Agosto, D. E., & Hughes-Hassell, S. established a theoretical model of urban teen development and constructed categories for analyzing their information seeking practices. In their model, urban teens search for information related to the social, emotional, reflective, physical, creative, cognitive, sexual selves. After an extensive review of previous models, Agosto and Hughes conclude that teenagers seek information in order to facilitate the teen-to-adult maturation process. According to them, information seeking is both a self-exploration and world exproration. Young people purposefully seek information in response to perceived needs and they also receive information incidentally through their monitoring of the world.

In “Teens on the Internet: Interpersonal Connection, Identity, and Information,” (2006) P. Greenfield, et al., have found that youth identity experimentation occurs mainly with friends and family, not with strangers. In their study of internet chat and bulletin boards they identify a common peer culture where teens discuss race, sex, and illness. According to them, this culture can be seen particular teen behaviors such as the use of abbreviated linguistic codes, the habit of multitasking, and the way of keeping track of conversation in multiparty internet settings. Although the authors mention the existence of an online teen culture, their description of it is very superficial.

Another study on the uses of Internet in youth everyday life is the one made by S. Jones et al., “Everyday life, online: U.S. college students’ use of the Internet” (2009). They analyze the survey data collected in 29 university campuses in the USA. According to them, Internet use is part of college students' life and students take ubiquitous connectivity and access for granted. They point out that the transition to web 2.0 technologies and the SNS by college students has been seamless and has allowed them to expand their social circle. According to them social communication is the primary use of the Internet and the use for coursework has decreased compared to what students did in 2002. Based on a previous study, Jones et al. identify a pattern of evolution in the use of Internet by USA college students. The evolution goes from using "e-mail and web browsing, to using Google and search functions (reference tool), to MySpace/Facebook and social networks (social communication), to music (entertainment)".

There are several studies about how the uses of social media by young people are related to identity, self-expression, and taste. However due to the limits of time I am not going to review them. I will just mention them and highlight their main focus. Addressing specific issues of identity, danah boyd's “None of This Is Real: Identity and Participation in Friendster” (2008) reveals the dynamics of identity performances that people can make in SNS. In a similar way, Hugo Liu has study SNS profiles from MySpace in order to understand the kind of performance that users make online. In “Social Network Profiles as Taste Performances.” (2007) he argues that SNSs list of interests function as an expressive arena for taste performance. He elaborates a semantic typology of taste statements (prestige, differentiation, authenticity, and theatrical persona) and applies to an statistical analysis of a massive sample of MySpace profiles (127,477). After the analysis, he shows evidence that the prestige and differentiation statements are widely use among MySpace users. In “Taking Risky Opportunities in Youthful Content Creation: Teenagers’ Use of Social Networking Sites for Intimacy, Privacy and Self-Expression” (2008) Sonia Livingstone, studies teens practices of identity construction and management within SNS and considers the risks and opportunities that SNS have triggered among adults.