‘Media is a Plural’ – What Children Might Know and Research May Seem to Forget

Authors: Woodfall, A. and Zezulkova, M.

Conference: International Conference on Communication and Mass Media

Dates: 11-15 May 2015


Children can be seen to operate within complex mediated-lived experiences (Deuze, 2011), and rather than recognising their media engagement in light of any individual platform, we should perhaps address these experiences as part of a platform spanning media repertoire (Hasebrink & Popp, 2006) or ‘media mix’ (Ito, 2008). If we picture childhood as partial ‘construct’, that can lead us toward an awkward universalising, then we can similarly argue against any fixed and finalised conceptualisations of ‘media’. This conference paper argues that each utterance of media, in a Bakhtinian sense, should be seen as in dialogue with each other utterance; and at this point any justification for addressing any medium, in the singular, as a ‘discreet’ utterance, may be said to fall down. Whilst drawing upon the findings of two recent qualitative studies (one media education facing, the other media practice facing) with children between six and eleven years of age, it will be suggested here that communication and media research should recognise the ‘child’ as a ‘whole person’ immersed in ‘whole/all media’.

The first of these research projects, carried out in the USA and the Czech Republic, drew upon classroom observations and ‘photo-elicitation’ group and individual interviews. The second, carried out in the UK, turned toward the reflective and tactile worth of ‘creative’ research approaches and ‘Q method’. The studies, although separate, shared certain conceptual underpinnings and arrived at relatable findings. Notably that participating children tended to address media in a ‘platform agnostic’ manner. Rather than focus their attention on any particular media platform, children instead operated at a media wide level - with attention given to character and narrative, for example, rather than the media technology. It may not be that the child participants were oblivious to platforms, but they did appear comfortable to step across them; they offered little sense that they saw the platform itself as being of overriding significance to their ‘holistic’ media engagement.

Ultimately then, if children can be seen to address media in a more ‘conceptual’, or at least less platform led manner, then focusing on any one medium within research with children could be said to become deeply problematic – with this being a core contention of the presentation.

By means of illustration this presentation will look to share the research participants’ verbal and visual representations.

Bibliography Deuze, M., 2011. Media Life. Media, Culture & Society, 33 (1), 137 -148.

Hasebrink, U. & Popp, J. 2006. Media Repertoires as a Result of Selective Media Use. A Conceptual Approach to the Analysis of Patterns of Exposure. Communications, 31(3), 369-387.

Ito, M. 2010. Hanging Out, Messing Around, and Geeking Out: Kids Living and Learning with New Media. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Source: Manual