Home is where the hardware is: Young people, the domestic environment, and 'access' to new technologies
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This article was developed from an ESRC funded research project (1998-2000) entitled 'ScreenPlay' conducted by researchers from Bristol, Cardiff and University of Wales Newport universities. This opening chapter to the book explores the literal placing of the computer within the home and the implications of this for its use as a resource by young people. Similar studies have been conducted, historically, concerning the entry of the radio and the television into the domestic space, but where is the computer located? This question is explored by research involving questionnaire (855 children) and case study research with sixteen families. This machine is in fact still a relatively recent arrival to the British domestic scene. The authors found that the computer as an object meant many things: an expensive investment by parents, a perceived educational tool and a policing device ('better the young people are in than out'). The computer had no ideal resting place as does the television and was located, for example, in makeshift 'studies' under the stairs, in bedrooms or on the kitchen table. Furthermore it is often a shared resource with all the tensions surrounding this. It also offers access to the outside world. What the article points out is that the material nature of the computer affects its use. Ownership of hardware and software is affected by socio-economic factors (low income families had less access to computers for example). Furthermore, far from the nation producing a generation of 'cyberkids' young people’s access to computers in the home involves complex negotiations in terms of space and place in the domestic interior. In the conclusion to this chapter, the authors suggest we need to search for new methodologies to understand the role of the computer in the shaping of youth identity.
Children, Technology and Culture: The Impacts of Technologiesin Childrens Everyday Lives, pp.13-27
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