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Computer- and Video games in Family Life: The digital divide as a resource in intergenerational interactions
Linköping University, The Tema Institute, Department of Child Studies. Linköping University, Faculty of Arts and Sciences.
2007 (English)In: Childhood, ISSN 0907-5682 (print) 1461-7013 (online), Vol. 14, no 2, 235-256 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

In this ethnographic study of family life, intergenerational video and computer game activities were videotaped and analysed. Both children and adults invoked the notion of a digital divide, i.e. a generation gap between those who master and do not master digital technology. It is argued that the digital divide was exploited by the children to control the game activities. Conversely, parents and grandparents positioned themselves as less knowledgeable, drawing on a displayed divide as a rhetorical resource for gaining access to playtime with the children. In these intergenerational encounters, the digital divide was thus an interactional resource rather than a problem.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2007. Vol. 14, no 2, 235-256 p.
Keyword [en]
computer games, digital divide, family, knowledge-relations, participation framework, video games
National Category
Other Social Sciences not elsewhere specified
URN: urn:nbn:se:liu:diva-14503DOI: 10.1177/0907568207078330OAI: diva2:23604
Available from: 2007-05-14 Created: 2007-05-14 Last updated: 2009-04-21
In thesis
1. Around the Screen: Computer activities in children’s everyday lives
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Around the Screen: Computer activities in children’s everyday lives
2007 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Alternative title[sv]
Omkring skärmen : Barns datoraktiviteter i vardagen
Abstract [en]

The present ethnography documents computer activities in everyday life. The data consist of video recordings, interviews and field notes, documenting (i) 16 students in a seventh grade class in a computer room and other school settings and (ii) 22 children, interacting with siblings, friends and parents in home settings. The thesis is inspired by discourse analytical as well as ethnographic approaches, including notions from Goffman (1974, 1981), e.g. those of activity frame and participation framework, which are applied and discussed.

The thesis consists of four empirical studies. The first study focuses on students’ illegitimate use, from the school’s point of view, of online chatting in a classroom situation. It is shown that the distinction offline/online is not a static one, rather it is made relevant as part of switches between activity frames, indicating the problems of applying Goffman’s (1981) notions of sideplay, byplay and crossplay to analyses of interactions in which several activity frames are present, rather than one main activity. Moreover, it is shown that online identities, in terms of what is here called tags, that is, visual-textual nicknames, are related to offline phenomena, including local identities as well as contemporary aesthetics. The second study focuses on placement of game consoles as part of family life politics. It is shown that game consoles were mainly located in communal places in the homes. The distinction private/communal was also actualized in the participants’ negotiations about access to game consoles as well as negotiations about what to play, when, and for how long. It is shown that two strategies were used, inclusion and exclusion, for appropriating communal places for computer game activities. The third study focuses on a digital divide in terms of a generational divide with respect to ascribed computer competence, documenting how the children and adults positioned each other as people ‘in the know’ (the children) versus people in apprentice-like positions (the adults). It is shown that this generation gap was deployed as a resource in social interaction by both the children and the adults. The forth study focuses on gaming in family life, showing that gaming was recurrently marked by response cries (Goffman, 1981) and other forms of blurted talk. These forms of communication worked as parts of the architecture of intersubjectivity in gaming (cf. Heritage, 1984), indexing the distinction virtual/‘real’. It is shown how response cries, sound making, singing along and animated talk extended the virtual in that elements of the game became parts of the children’s social interaction around the screen, forming something of an action aesthetic, a type of performative action for securing and displaying joint involvement and collaboration. As a whole, the present studies show how the distinctions master/apprentice, public/private, virtual/real and subject/object are indexicalized and negotiated in computer activities.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Linköping: Linköping University Electronic Press, 2007. 72 + studies 1-4 p.
Linköping Studies in Arts and Science, ISSN 0282-9800 ; 388
Ethnography, Activity frames, Computer activities, Identities, Digital technology, Classroom, family, Social interaction, Everyday life, Children, barn, datoraktivitet, digital teknologi, diskursanalys, familj, identitet, skola, social, interaktion, vardagsliv
National Category
Other Social Sciences not elsewhere specified
urn:nbn:se:liu:diva-8883 (URN)978-91-85831-82-1 (ISBN)
Public defence
2007-06-01, Elysion, Hus T, Campus Valla, Linköpings universitet, Linköping, 13:15 (English)
Available from: 2007-05-14 Created: 2007-05-14 Last updated: 2014-09-10Bibliographically approved

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Aarsand, Pål André
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Department of Child StudiesFaculty of Arts and Sciences
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