Date of Award

1-1-2003

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Communications

Faculty

Faculty of Communications and Creative Industries

First Advisor

Lelia Green

Abstract

This study investigates how contemporary Australian families incorporate the consumption of multiple media technologies within their home environments. It uses an approach similar to David Morley's (1986) Family Television where he explored the consumption of television programs in the context of everyday family life. He viewed the household (or family) as the key to constructing understandings of the television audience; where there were gendered regimes of watching, and where program choice often reflected existing power relationships in the home. However since then (a time when most families had only one television set) the media environment of many homes has changed. The addition of multiple television sets, along with newer digital technologies such as computers and game consoles, has introduced a new dynamics of social space within the household. Therefore, the family living room, with its erstwhile shared television culture, has become a less critical site of domestic media consumption. With the migration of television sets and new digital technologies to other spaces in the home, claims over time and space have become even more intimately involved with the domestic use of media technologies. Consequently, this study critically analyses the relationship between media consumption and the geographical spaces and boundaries within the home. Drawing upon interviews with all family members, this thesis argues that the incorporation of multiple media technologies in many households has coincided with significant changes to the spatial geography of these homes, along with a rearticulation of gendered and generational power relationships. Extra media spaces in bedrooms, hallways, home offices and 'nooks’ have freed up the lounge room, possibly allowing for more harmony and accord within the family, but also reducing the amount of time the family spends together. At the same time the newer media spaces become additional sites for gendered and generational conflict and tension. This study uses an audience ethnography approach to explore and analyse media consumption at the micro level, that of the individual within the household/family. Twenty-three in-depth conversational interviews and observations of children and adults living in six technologically rich households in suburban and regional areas of Western Australia formed the basis of this thesis. Themes and issues that emerged from this qualitative research process include the gendered nature of screens in children's bedrooms, the extent to which a media-rich bedroom culture is evident in Australia, the existence of a masculine gadgeteer culture within some families in the study, the social construction of gaming as a gendered (boy) culture, gendered pathways on the Internet and the reintegration of adult acknowledge-based work into the family home. The thesis also addresses digital divide issues relating to inequities in access, technical and social support, motivation and the quality of new digital technologies available in the home.

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