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December 26, 2007

acma's report on families, gender and media technology

Posted by dogpossum on December 26, 2007 11:53 AM in the category academia

I'm sorry I don't have time to write something clever, but I thought some of you would be interested in this. It's ACMA's "Media and Communications in Australian Families 2007" report. I'd seen a few news articles about it, but have only just had time (because it's boxing day and I'm home alone while the family are out buying stuff) to actually look through the report. If you can't be bothered reading the whole report, check out the the press release for an overview.

There are, of course, some concerns about the sample size, etc, though it's presented as a having used a representative sample (only 750 responses, but that's actually not too bad, considering), I'm concerned about the issues of class etc tied up in the sampling process.

But if you read the report, there are some interesting points:

  • Around 70 per cent of girls aged 14–17 have a MySpace or similar profile,
    compared with 50 per cent of boys.

  • Almost two-thirds of girls use a mobile phone, but less than half of boys do.

Interesting stuff there, about gender and media use. My interest is caught by the fact that girls are more likely to use technology with an emphasis on communications. I do think, though, that it'd be worth exploring the communicative, collaborative potential of gaming. Apparently boys spend more time gaming than doing things like MySpace, and one of the definite appeals of things like WOW is the option of real time, collaborative play. Which of course, involves real time, collaborative problem solving and communicative 'work'. Which is, of course, one of the functions of 'gossip' - real time, collaborative communicative work where participants explore potential 'solutions' or 'answers' or 'reasons' for interpersonal 'problems' (ie 'maybe he cheated on you with her because she puts out?').
I also wonder about the significance of literacy. Young people make greater use of online technologies as they get older - as their literacy skills improve. And I wonder about girls' preference for text-based media. Is there perhaps a correlation between girls' literacy and their social media use?
It's all very interesting and definitely worth exploring.

The report itself has some problems - the same comments about 'watching violence on telly making kids violent, which is actually quite difficult to substantiate. Violence is far more complex an issue than can simply accounted for by watching violence on telly. So, you might be more likely to 'use' violence on telly (whether for models for your own violence, or as inspiration or energiser) if you're already living in a violent home, if you've had experience with violence, or if you're otherwise vulnerable. So there's a confluence of factors contributing to incidences of violence, and it's inaccurate to say that 'watching violence on telly makes you violent'. So this report doesn't seem to have taken that into account.

There are also a few, similar problems about ideology and lifestyle - still the idea that 'technology has an effect' or that there's a causal relationship between media technologies and social behaviour. We don't approve of that, over here in the lefty cultural studies media studies feminist corner.

Posted by dogpossum on December 26, 2007 11:53 AM in the category academia