Date of Award

1996

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts Honours

Faculty

Faculty of Arts

First Advisor

Robyn Quin

Second Advisor

Prof John Hartley

Abstract

Common assumptions about youth and youth culture exist in academic, as well as other adult cultures. These assumptions underlie policy decisions, programming choices, and even the way we (as adults) treat youth. This study proposes to examine Singaporean youth and their use of pagers, in terms of Foucauldian theories of power; in an attempt to draw critical attention to these common assumptions. The intention is to explore the ambiguities of such common assumptions as sites of power relations; relations that are inherent to all societies in one way or another. The pager is not a conventional focus for communication research. Yet it is set firmly, particularly in Asia, in the networks of communication that form part of the everyday lives of many people. This critical inquiry focuses on the construction of youth and technology (as discursive categories) in the media, academic research, legislation, business/advertising and journalistic writing; and looks at how these discourses intersect with the promotion of pagers and pager use. In focusing on the context of Asia, this approach problematises bounded conceptions of cultures and identities; and suggests that our understandings of youth and technology are more ideological than inherent. At the same time, I interrogate the connection of my self, my research, and its methodologies, to relations of power so that these aspects are not naturalised. The aim is to develop theorisations that are self-reflexive; recognising the "inescapability" of power. This is not a critique of the nature of power (whether it is good or bad), but rather a description of its presence, how it inflects all cultural practices and social life. It also raises the need, particularly in intellectual discourses, to acknowledge the reach of power. By trying to examine the pager as a cultural artefact, this exercise poses questions for existing conceptions of what qualifies as a researchable media within the field of communication studies. It focuses attention on the conditions that have been set as to what is important, valued and legitimate work in communication studies. In broader terms, it similarly challenges our systems of sense-making and knowledge production. How do our existing know ledges of the relationship between technology/media and individuals, explain youth and pagers? And what does this reveal of their conditions of enunciation? This paper is a pointed interrogation of the technologies of power that are imbricated in the ways we make sense.

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