Ponte, C., Simões, José Alberto, Straubhaar, Joseph, Spence, Jeremiah, Rojas, Viviana (2011). DIGITAL INCLUSION, MEDIA CONSUMPTION AND GENERATIONS: CONTEXTS OF MEDIA USES BY PORTUGUESE AND AMERICAN FAMILIES. Not listed..

Abstract: Our aim is to explore the link between what might be called different cultures of media consumption, related to the way individuals and their families use media in complex and inter-related forms, and also related to the national and socio-cultural contexts that influence media uses. In this sense, families media cultures, and digital cultures in particular, are produced by different contexts of media socialization (both with digital and non-digital media) which, in turn, might explain generational differences that emerge when comparing countries or regions within the same country. The preliminary findings that we intend to discuss are part of a larger international research project on Digital Inclusion and Participation, which result from a research consortium between Portuguese Universities and Texas University at Austin. The Project aims to understand the conditions and tendencies for access and appropriation by users and non- users of digital media, with a focus on families and groups which are digitally excluded (elderly, women, immigrants, ethnic and linguistic minorities) and in the digital integration of children and youth; identify which national, regional, social and cultural modes and contexts could affect digital inclusion and participation. The comparative approach on two quite different social realities has stimulated the research teams both in Portugal and Texas to explore theoretically the concept of generation and its relationship with media use by individuals and their families, and to review the existent results in a wider comparative perspective. This generational approach must be understood in broader terms, since at least two different definitions have been at stake. While a demographic connotation tends to define generation merely as a cohort which may link different age groups to a specific time frame, a cultural definition considers that generations are determined by common experiences, linked with particular historical circumstances under which a specific generation comes to identify itself as a more or less collective entity (i.e., K. Mannheim, 1927). However, both approaches poses certain problems concerning the question of accommodating particular life courses and social trajectories that apparently do not follow such an “homogenised” experience as foreseen in a purely collective generational perspective. Part of this generational experience is somehow shaped by the way different individuals and their families make particular choices (media consumption related or others) throughout their lives based on given resources (such as cultural or economical capital) or life chances. In order to deal with the ambiguities and the complexity that involve considering the relation between different generations, personal resources and choices and media consumption, we have considered two complementary ways of approaching both theoretically and empirically this issue: on one hand, why generation matters for (understating) media consumption, which allows us to consider this problem from a generational point of view; on the other hand, why media consumption matters for (defining) a generation, which allows us to address the issue of cultural consumption and identity formation related with particular individuals located within specific historical periods and contexts. Why generation matters for media consumption considers that opportunities or life chances are not only related with the historical contexts under which a particular generation is born but also has to do with the specific social location each individual occupy in his generation. This is saying that individual life chances and trajectories relate complexly with generational opportunities. From a media consumption point of view, generational differences may be important since the context under which a particular individual is socialized with the media might explain not only his/her objective experience but also his/her representation of different media. This is one of the reasons why we find discrepancies between generations when it comes to adopting different media, since they have come into contact with different media in diverse moments of their life cycle. Broader changes of a structural nature that affect the social and cultural systems are also important to understand processes of domestication and incorporation of technologies and media products in families and individuals everyday life (Silverstone et al. 1992). So the life cycle may overlap in many ways with personal history with distinct media and with the way people make sense of their media uses through time. How generational similarities contribute to create a common ground for using and interpreting media experiences or alternatively what is different (and why) in such experience are issues that have been explored in this comparative research project. Why media consumption matters for (defining) a generation – there’s a cultural definition of generation, related with common experiences and practices that we may adopt. In this particular case, we are considering the role played by media consumption in defining a common generational experience, although part of this experience is ultimately bounded by generation itself and the particular position people occupy in a specific moment in time. Nevertheless, apart from obvious differences that might be explained by personal choices and life style options, there is a common background that may result from the fact that people share the same cultural environment in general and a common media landscape in particular.