A 'digital generation': sustaining connections in the Information AgePresentation Transcript
A ‘Digital Generation’: sustaining
connections in the Information
ESRC PhD Student University of York
‘To be on the wire is life; the rest is waiting’ (Goffman, E. 1967
The Interaction Ritual) - with reference to the telephone
Characterising the iGeneration
Various labels for 18 - 25 year olds - ‘N-gen’,
‘Millennials’, ‘Wired Generation’ ‘Google
Generation’, ‘Jpods’, 'ipod generation', 'MySpace
Generation’, ‘Facebook Generation’...
• Social life immersed in digital media
• Sociability focused on shared interactive
• Immediacy of connections and 'liveness' of updates
• Unified, mobile and always ‘connected’ to social
Researching the ‘iGeneration’
• Qualitative in-depth and open-ended
• 4 focus groups
• 80 undergraduate students - in the UK and
• Extracts from the data are not intended to be
representative, but are used for illustrative
iGenration use an array of multi-media devices and
user platforms e.g. Mobile phone, PCs, SNS, VoIP, IM,
eMail, Blogs, Wiki’s…
• Constant availability to social networks
• The self-management of social activities and links
• ‘Display’ of a connected and ‘online’ presence
• Mixture of static images, video streams, text, links,
digital shares, tagging…
For example - Facebook
A platform for social practice
User generated content acts as a ‘digital bridge’
between users as they include:
• A representation of the self - which is embedded in
• A dynamic representation of social activity via RSS
• Users ‘manage’ these representations e.g. by
‘permissioning’ (Pollard 2006), posting images,
Sociability is displayed and enacted across Web 2.0
media that may include - Facebook, Bebo,
MySpace, Blogs, Digg, Del.icio.us, Personal
• Immersion in a mediated social life
• Always connected
• Speed of flows - speeded up
• Meaning and accounting for dissociation
• Knowing others ‘backwards’
• Digital sociability
Immersion in a (social) mediated life
Well, I’m a 21 year old student, and to be
honest, I couldn’t live without my mobile
phone. In fact, I could tell you a lot about my
hobbies, interests, favorite movies/songs, …
but I guess you’ll have to ﬁnd out by reading
my blog… Besides Facebook, you could learn
more about me through the following …
* Flickr : my online photo library
* LastFm : what i’m listening to
* Twitter : what i’m doing
* Del.icio.us : my bookmarks
• Seek to occupy a range of social media.
• Appear to present multiple ‘presences’ as
these are across different spaces.
• About informed sociability rather than
attachment/commitment to a single device or
‘I would never be without my phone,
or checking Facebook... People tend
to have ties everywhere now. I find
that I can always be in touch just at
the click of a button anytime’
Being always connected
• Seemingly unregulated flows of information.
• Numerous methods/applications to stay in
• Formation of ‘digital presence’? – underlie all
Speeding-up the coming of information
‘Things are changing so fast, like you go
away for just one day and you are just so
out of the loop, things change continually
and it’s nice to be part of that. It’s hard if
you miss a message, or status update on
Facebook cos then you are behind, you
don’t know what’s going on… you have
to continue to make the effort if you want
to be in touch.’
Interactions are go, go, go!
• Managed ‘on the go’.
• Valued for ‘live’ content.
• Personal engagements/encounters are
• Real time with real consequences.
Social meaning and accounting
…you can’t just go AWOL and not
answer, no-one does that anymore. I
have to announce it if I am going to
uncontactable, especially to my
Creating social meaning
• NOT being connected has ‘meaning’ e.g. each
instance has to be explained.
• Set of communicative ‘regimes’ to stay/be in touch to
• Informed by social etiquette/rules e.g. A Guide to
Proper Facebook Etiquette blog.
Knowing others ‘backwards’
‘The way in is different now… you
can check out their MySpace, or just
Poke someone on Facebook… Its
kind of stalkerish… YOU get to fill in
the ‘gaps’ before you meet’
How to know someone
• ‘Getting to know’ someone is focussed on
continually updated information.
• Assumed to be based on the ‘real’/authentic
• ‘Social imagining’?
‘Digital’ sociability <-> co-present sociability
More than just a ‘digital’ sociability
We live in a really voyeuristic
society. We're all total attention
whores! We want to know who’s
with who, who know’s who and
how, what they are about and then
what they are doing all the time!
Its like an addiction!
• Previously defined and static on/offline lives,
or ‘real’ and ‘virtual’ world dualities are
• Engaged and connected social ‘present-
• The individual is constantly situated as part
of a shared sense ‘knowing’ one another and
exchanges of social information.
An emergent project
• SNS, Blogs etc - provide new spaces for what can
be thought of as a ‘digital self project’ (cf. Shilling
2003 ‘body projects’).
• These projects call for a reflexive engagement with
the self and social practices.
• Social practices are more or less manifest through
displays of ‘networks’, links etc.
• Projects and practices always emergent.
• A new form of ‘social surveillance’.
A converging sociability
• Digital resources provide a personalised
connectedness that transcends previous dualities
and provide a constant ‘tether’ to networks (Ito et al
• Goffmans’ account of communication; the nuanced
use of ‘props’ and ‘backstage’ work is congruent with
digital interactions that are full of symbolic meanings
• The technologies ‘dysappear’ (like the ‘healthy’
body) unless an individual is unable to connect -
which has to be explained
• iGeneration are engaged in a new form of
‘connected sociability’ - user participation.
• Calls for the need to engage in a ‘mediated self
project’ - which is always emergent and maintained
across different social spaces.
• New ways of experiencing relationships and
maintaining social connections; dynamic and
managed ‘on the go’.
• Negotiated set of social practices to ‘stay in touch’
and maintain social networks.
Sooner Or Later…
Andy Riley (2007) ‘Roasted’ The Observer 25th March