RidgiDidge: A Grounded Theory of New Media and Young People

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Keys, Wendy

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Woodward, Ian

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The RidgiDidge Study is a qualitative longitudinal project that uses grounded theory methodology to determine how new media technology figures in the recreational lives of a group of Australian High School students. The participants completed a 7-day media diary, a questionnaire and participated in an individual semi-structured interview at three research stages over a three term period.

The research objective of the RidgiDidge Study is the generation of a middle range substantive grounded theory that describes how new media technology figures in the lives of Australian High school students. This type of theory applies to, and is drawn from, a clearly delineated research context and goes beyond the simple description of social phenomena to occupy the ground between basic empiricism and grand theory. The emergent theory in the RidgiDidge Study will contribute to a growing body of Australian research that calls for an intergenerational and non-judgemental understanding of young people's media technology consumption. Similarly, given that technical change has the capacity to impact on public conceptions of youth and childhood, a critical view of research on media technology consumption and young people also suggests the need to develop methodologies that account for the complexity of young people's relationship to new media technology.

The results of the RidgiDidge Study indicate that new media technologies such as the games system, the internet and the mobile phone are catalysts and facilitators of social praxis, highlighting the participants' agency in ways not necessarily predicted by adults or commercially provided culture. This conceptual perspective readily accounts for changes in young people's use of technology over time. The results also indicate that new media technologies are used by the participants' to make and maintain social connections to friends and family for the purposes of maintaining a positive standard of living where social relationships are privileged over the consumption of technology for its own sake. In this way, young people mobilise agency to positively negotiate the duality of the structures in their lives that simultaneously constrain and enable their new media technology use.

This grounded theory challenges the current negative mythology about young people that portrays them as passive media consumers, apathetic community members, deviant or too dependent on technology and susceptible to a range of social and health problems. At issue with this negative conception of childhood is that such a description leads to a prescription for what and how youth and childhood should be. The theory generated from the RidgiDidge Study shows that new media technology is a comparatively small, positive and integral part of the social world of the participants. Research of this type has implications for future research where the recognition of a positive conception of youth and childhood in the face of a rapidly changing technological milieu has the capacity to develop a greater non-judgemental and inter-generational understanding of young people.

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Thesis (PhD Doctorate)

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Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


School of Arts, Media and Culture

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grounded theory

new media technology


high school students


mobile phone


young people

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