Fotoblogs and Adolescents

 
 Editor
Lydia Sánchez lsanchezg@ub.edu
 Incorporated contributions
Silvia Burset (11/2009), J.M. Díaz Nafría
 Usage domain
Information Society, ICT
 Type
Problem
 French
fotoblog et les adolescents 
 German Fotoblogs und Jugendliche  
 

[Understandable but with some grammatical missteps]


Adolescents have grown up in an information society where they have not needed to be ‘educated’ in order to learn and employ the norms of use of the internet; rather, they have developed the norms and have adapted them to their own needs. Indeed, today's youth do not use the term "new technology" when they talk about issues related to computing. To them, the net is nothing new.

The new media provide adolescents with a context that allows them to create signs of identity. Most adults are unaware of the strategies, practices and codes commonly used in chat rooms, instant messaging, SMS texting on mobile phones or on blogs that young people routinely use in their day to day lives. Use of this technology is not just part of their lives, but a way of life. They are media which not only inform the users who surf the internet. Rather, the media shapes users and encourages them to create strategies and attitudes to communicate with their peers from different virtual contexts.

From these means of communication, the adolescent is projecting a representation of himself in which he reveals not only his personality, his character, how he feels or what he likes, but also reflects who he would like to be. In this way, the photoblog is a place where connections are established with the peer group that the adolescent wishes to interact with and belong to. With this in mind, the adolescent goes about creating and shaping his identity. The interaction between subjects with similar interests, ages and tastes, leads to the construction of their selves through the image, through the interface. Thus, the photoblog becomes a space of socialization. 

The adolescent, through the discourse established within the photoblog, creates a narrative; one which is understood as a mental construction of reality. As human beings, we seek meaning in our experiences through a process of using a language that we, as well as others, understand. This language can be verbal, textual, visual or physical. According to Bruner, the meaning we give to our experience and to that of others depends on the public and shared meanings of our interaction as members of a culture. Today, it is a culture comprised of two generations, one which has grown up with computers and another that has had to adapt to them. Young people have adapted media computers to their interests, whereas their predecessors rather adapted to them.

 We live in an information and knowledge society where interests of different age and gender groups and social classes, concern hobbies and ideas that may converge as well as diverge. The media expose, more clearly, the characteristics of each group. Roxana Morduchowicz (2004) says that media construct myths and stories through which individuals constitute a common culture. Thus, the identities of young people are drawn in the intersection of written text, electronic images and popular culture. It is true that we live in an environment that is defined by the presence of a plurality of cultures; with this statement we do not refer to the reality of the phenomenon of immigration, but to the multiplicity of subcultures [1], as, for instance, the ones expressing adolescents' own interests. 

Adolescent's use of photoblogs shows how the relationship between user and media has changed due to the transformations introduced by the Internet and the processes of digitalization. If the first theoretical models of mass communication conceive this relationship as linear and unidirectional, most current theories emphasize the active role of the receiver. Thus, we have moved beyond the so-called dominant paradigm’s main theory of how the media influences us, to being preoccupied with "what do people do with media?", or even beyond that to "what media do people create?"

Present day consumers not only actively use the media for the purpose of satisfying psychological or emotional needs, as the Theory of uses and gratifications has stressed, but additionally people have become producers of media and audiovisual content. The resulting change is not solely based, even on a primordial level, on technological innovation per se, but in the creation of new socially recognized communication practices (See “Las industrias audiovisuales y los nuevos medios” in Durán y Sánchez 2008). From our point of view, the use of photoblogs by adolescents demonstrates this turning point that new technologies have generated. It is precisely this quality we wish to demonstrate when we characterize photoblogs as a symbolic creative space through which an adolescent defines himself as a subject via interaction with others by means of the aesthetic use of images.

 

Thus, adolescents use photoblogs with the intention of creating new communication protocols that allow them to express themselves not as consumers but as creators. It is about creating a space that goes beyond posting pictures and comments in order to establish an environment that reveals their relationships, moods, tastes, interests, etc. integrated into their daily lives. It is an environment that enhances the subject’s creativity in an entertaining way, either in the pursuit of the most fitting images or in the formalization of original on-screen writing. An interesting characteristic of photoblogs is that they communicate that which is seen. All of this is done to establish a symbol of group identity to which the teenager wishes to belong. We say “wishes” because, with every change, she is building her identity by communicating with her peers. Marc Augé (1996) affirms that individuals acquire existence only through the relationships among them. In the case of photoblogs, the teenager relates to others abiding by some rules of use which, although not explicitly codified, can be guessed through the study of the different forms of representation.

 
On the other hand, the messages produced by teenagers by means of photoblogs cannot be translated into another form of communication because the medium offers resources and strategies of its own, which allow the subjects to convey ideas and feelings graphically through the representation on the screen.
 

On photoblogs, the choice of images combined with texts written in a particular way constitute a new way of interacting; to express, proclaim, question or answer and cannot be translated into another mode of communication because the nature of the environment facilitates a kind of speech that is difficult to translate into spoken language and gestures. Perhaps we can consider this medium as one of the extensions of the body which McLuhan has spoken about (1996); the photoblog is not only a means of communication, but rather it is a glimpse of a new way of relating between people who live in different contexts.

 

The use of photoblogs allows for strategies and forms of communication that define it as a context in which feelings or ideas are expressed through visual forms that determine the nature of the message. Hence, the message could not be gestated in a different way and obtain the same reaction in the receptor. In the edition of these visual forms, there is a decorative aesthetic intentionality that forms part of the content of the message. The representation of texts, together with the images themselves, confers a new communicative sense to words.

 

This article doesn’t pretend to make value judgments regarding the use of photoblogs by adolescents. It just wants to present a social reality and indicate some aspects that reflect the so-called digital generation gap. Carles Feixa, among other authors, talks about the generation ac (after computer) and bc (before computer). While in the past, generational gaps were marked by historical events or by music ruptures, today, the evolution of digital media marks the distance between generations.

 

Young people who have grown in digital environments are not only more skilful and effective than their parents in the exploitation of these environments, but also show differences in their ways of accessing information and communication in general. The difference relies not only in the fact that one generation is more passive and the other commits to interactivity, but in that these processes are changing traditional cognitive structures and schemata.

 

Applying the Uses and Gratifications theory, cited in the previous paragraph, we would say that the medium is defined by the user. For example, the use that adolescents and their parents make of mobile phones can make us conclude that we are in front of a different device. While the former are always connected through brief and trivial particularized messages or photographic snapshots, adults simply stick to the fixed phone's customary routines.

 
The same happens with the Web. Vilches speaks of "space migrants claiming the right to live in the territory of a connected civilization" (2001:36). This represents a paradigm shift in relationships and in the construction of the social. Psychologists and sociologists study the consequences that can result from being continually "plugged in". However, any change or rupture always produces arguments pro and con. And now we are witnessing, in regard to the use young people make of computers, the same sort of debate that took place some time ago concerning television. However, there is a fundamental difference that we mentioned at the beginning concerning these two changes, while the former TV addicts were passive, current messenger abducted youngsters act and create.

 

In this so-called global society, immersed in what Toffler called The third wave, new systems of symbols and codes have emerged, characterized by the use of image. Young people receive and send orders and messages through visual media. The photoblog is one of these spaces in which the image becomes a new mode of communication. And we are not referring only to iconic images themselves, but also to the many ways of producing written texts that are displayed on the interface. Such "productions" are, in many cases, incomprehensible and even insipid for adults, but one might as well ask them how those spiral notebooks and diaries they wrote and decorated when they were teenagers "felt" at the time, and how they see them now. The references and archetypes were different, but the need for "constructing one’s self" was the same.

 

A different approach would consider these spaces as an expression of uncommitted and merchandised low culture, full of banalities; however, we must insist that it is the user who makes the medium. There are, in the web, multiple collective projects with an altruistic, creative or informative character, induced by young people who, precisely, strive to avoid the systems of economic exploitation in which we are immersed.

To conclude, we say that adolescents’ use of photoblogs is part of the divers elements and actions that help them build symbolic forms in order to make sense of their own experience and of their relationship with their environment. Young subjects simply take advantage of digital media to suit their interests and needs. A space which was initially conceived as a means to "hang" amateur photos has become a medium for the exchange of opinions and wishes, and the construction of personality.

 


[1]  We understand the term subculture as emerging manifestation of an institutionalized culture either by contrast, renewal, addition, conversion, trespass or other action that is differentiated from the dominant culture.


 
References
  • AUGÉ, M. (1996) El sentido de los otros, Barcelona: Paidós. Pág. 24.
  • DURAN, J. y SÁNCHEZ, L. (2008) Industrias de la comunicación audiovisual. Barcelona: Publicacions i edicions de la Universitat de Barcelona. Col. Comunicación activa.
  • FEIXA, C. (2006) De jóvenes, bandas y tribus. Barcelona: Ariel.
  • GIDDENS, A. (1997) Modernidad e identidad del yo. El yo y la sociedad en la época contemporánea. Barcelona: Península.
  • GOFFMAN, E. (1971) La presentación de la persona en la vida cotidiana. Buenos Aires: Amorrortu.
  • GONZALES, A.L. y HANCOCK, J. (2008) “Identity Shift in Computer-Mediated Environments”. En Media Psychology 11: 167-185. Routledge. pp. 167-185.
  • LÓPEZ GARCÍA, G. (2005) Modelos de comunicación en Internet. Valencia: Tirant lo Blanch.
  • JENKINS, H. (2008) Convergente culture: La cultura de la convergencia de los medios de comunicación. Barcelona: Paidós.
  • MCLUHAN, M. (1996) Comprender los medios de comunicación. Las extensiones del ser humano. Barcelona: Paidós.
  • MORDUCHOWICZ, R. (2004) El capital cultural de los jóvenes. Buenos Aires: Fondo de Cultura Económica.
  • MURRAY, J. H. (1999) Hamlet en la holocubierta. El futuro de la narrativa en el ciberespacio. Barcelona: Paidós.
  • RODRIGO, M. (2001) Teorías de la comunicación. Ámbitos, métodos y perspectivas. Zaragoza: UAB, U. Jaume I, U. Pompeu Fabra, U. Valencia.
  • RODRIGUEZ, F. (2002) Comunicación y cultura juvenil. Barcelona: Ariel.
  • THOMPSON, J. (1998) Los media y la modernidad. Una teoría de los medios de comunicación. Barcelona: Paidós.
  • TURKLE, S. (1997) La vida en la pantalla. La construcción de la identidad en la era de Internet. Barcelona: Paidós.
  • WOOLGAR, S. (2005) ¿Sociedad virtual? Tecnología, “cibérbole”, realidad. Barcelona: UOC.
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Incorporated entries
Silvia Burset (3/11/09)
 

Adolescents have grown up in an information society where they have not needed to be ‘educated’ in order to learn and employ the norms of use of the internet; rather, they have developed the norms and have adapted them to their own needs. Indeed, today's youth do not use the term "new technology" when they talk about issues related to computing. To them, the net is nothing new.

The new media provide adolescents with a context that allows them to create signs of identity. Most adults are unaware of the strategies, practices and codes commonly used in chat rooms, instant messaging, SMS texting on mobile phones or on blogs that young people routinely use in their day to day lives. Use of this technology is not just part of their lives, but a way of life. They are media which not only inform the users who surf the internet. Rather, the media shapes users and encourages them to create strategies and attitudes to communicate with their peers from different virtual contexts.

From these means of communication, the adolescent is projecting a representation of himself in which he reveals not only his personality, his character, how he feels or what he likes, but also reflects who he would like to be. In this way, the photoblog is a place where connections are established with the peer group that the adolescent wishes to interact with and belong to. With this in mind, the adolescent goes about creating and shaping his identity. The interaction between subjects with similar interests, ages and tastes, leads to the construction of their selves through the image, through the interface. Thus, the photoblog becomes a space of socialization. 

The adolescent, through the discourse established within the photoblog, creates a narrative; one which is understood as a mental construction of reality. As human beings, we seek meaning in our experiences through a process of using a language that we, as well as others, understand. This language can be verbal, textual, visual or physical. According to Bruner, the meaning we give to our experience and to that of others depends on the public and shared meanings of our interaction as members of a culture. Today, it is a culture comprised of two generations, one which has grown up with computers and another that has had to adapt to them. Young people have adapted media computers to their interests, whereas their predecessors rather adapted to them.

We live in an information and knowledge society where interests of different age and gender groups and social classes, concern hobbies and ideas that may converge as well as diverge. The media expose, more clearly, the characteristics of each group. Roxana Morduchowicz says that media construct myths and stories through which individuals constitute a common culture. Thus, the identities of young people are drawn in the intersection of written text, electronic images and popular culture [1]. It is true that we live in an environment that is defined by the presence of a plurality of cultures; with this statement we do not refer to the reality of the phenomenon of immigration, but to the multiplicity of subcultures[2], as, for instance, the ones expressing adolescents' own interests. 

Adolescent's use of photoblogs shows how the relationship between user and media has changed due to the transformations introduced by the Internet and the processes of digitalization. If the first theoretical models of mass communication conceive this relationship as linear and unidirectional, most current theories emphasize the active role of the receiver. Thus, we have moved beyond the so-called dominant paradigm’s main theory of how the media influences us, to being preoccupied with "what do people do with media?", or even beyond that to "what media do people create?"

Present day consumers not only actively use the media for the purpose of satisfying psychological or emotional needs, as the Theory of uses and gratifications has stressed, but additionally people have become producers of media and audiovisual content. The resulting change is not solely based, even on a primordial level, on technological innovation per se, but in the creation of new socially recognized communication practices [3]. From our point of view, the use of photoblogs by adolescents demonstrates this turning point that new technologies have generated. It is precisely this quality we wish to demonstrate when we characterize photoblogs as a symbolic creative space through which an adolescent defines himself as a subject via interaction with others by means of the aesthetic use of images.

 

Thus, adolescents use photoblogs with the intention of creating new communication protocols that allow them to express themselves not as consumers but as creators. It is about creating a space that goes beyond posting pictures and comments in order to establish an environment that reveals their relationships, moods, tastes, interests, etc. integrated into their daily lives. It is an environment that enhances the subject’s creativity in an entertaining way, either in the pursuit of the most fitting images or in the formalization of original on-screen writing. An interesting characteristic of photoblogs is that they communicate that which is seen. All of this is done to establish a symbol of group identity to which the teenager wishes to belong. We say “wishes” because, with every change, she is building her identity by communicating with her peers. Marc Augé affirms that individuals acquire existence only through the relationships among them [4]. In the case of photoblogs, the teenager relates to others abiding by some rules of use which, although not explicitly codified, can be guessed through the study of the different forms of representation.

On the other hand, the messages produced by teenagers by means of photoblogs cannot be translated into another form of communication because the medium offers resources and strategies of its own, which allow the subjects to convey ideas and feelings graphically through the representation on the screen.

On photoblogs, the choice of images combined with texts written in a particular way constitute a new way of interacting; to express, proclaim, question or answer and cannot be translated into another mode of communication because the nature of the environment facilitates a kind of speech that is difficult to translate into spoken language and gestures. Perhaps we can consider this medium as one of the extensions of the body which McLuhan has spoken about [5]; the photoblog is not only a means of communication, but rather it is a glimpse of a new way of relating between people who live in different contexts.

 

The use of photoblogs allows for strategies and forms of communication that define it as a context in which feelings or ideas are expressed through visual forms that determine the nature of the message. Hence, the message could not be gestated in a different way and obtain the same reaction in the receptor. In the edition of these visual forms, there is a decorative aesthetic intentionality that forms part of the content of the message. The representation of texts, together with the images themselves, confers a new communicative sense to words.

 

This article doesn’t pretend to make value judgments regarding the use of photoblogs by adolescents. It just wants to present a social reality and indicate some aspects that reflect the so-called digital generation gap. Carles Feixa, among other authors, talks about the generation ac (after computer) and bc (before computer). While in the past, generational gaps were marked by historical events or by music ruptures, today, the evolution of digital media marks the distance between generations.

 

Young people who have grown in digital environments are not only more skilful and effective than their parents in the exploitation of these environments, but also show differences in their ways of accessing information and communication in general. The difference relies not only in the fact that one generation is more passive and the other commits to interactivity, but in that these processes are changing traditional cognitive structures and schemata.

 

Applying the Uses and Gratifications theory, cited in the previous paragraph, we would say that the medium is defined by the user. For example, the use that adolescents and their parents make of mobile phones can make us conclude that we are in front of a different device. While the former are always connected through brief and trivial particularized messages or photographic snapshots, adults simply stick to the fixed phone's customary routines.


The same happens with the Web. Vilches speaks of "space migrants claiming the right to live in the territory of a connected civilization" (2001:36). This represents a paradigm shift in relationships and in the construction of the social. Psychologists and sociologists study the consequences that can result from being continually "plugged in". However, any change or rupture always produces arguments pro and con. And now we are witnessing, in regard to the use young people make of computers, the same sort of debate that took place some time ago concerning television. However, there is a fundamental difference that we mentioned at the beginning concerning these two changes, while the former TV addicts were passive, current messenger abducted youngsters act and create.

In this so-called global society, immersed in what Toffler called The third wave, new systems of symbols and codes have emerged, characterized by the use of image. Young people receive and send orders and messages through visual media. The photoblog is one of these spaces in which the image becomes a new mode of communication. And we are not referring only to iconic images themselves, but also to the many ways of producing written texts that are displayed on the interface. Such "productions" are, in many cases, incomprehensible and even insipid for adults, but one might as well ask them how those spiral notebooks and diaries they wrote and decorated when they were teenagers "felt" at the time, and how they see them now. The references and archetypes were different, but the need for "constructing one’s self" was the same.

 

A different approach would consider these spaces as an expression of uncommitted and merchandised low culture, full of banalities; however, we must insist that it is the user who makes the medium. There are, in the web, multiple collective projects with an altruistic, creative or informative character, induced by young people who, precisely, strive to avoid the systems of economic exploitation in which we are immersed.

To conclude, we say that adolescents’ use of photoblogs is part of the divers elements and actions that help them build symbolic forms in order to make sense of their own experience and of their relationship with their environment. Young subjects simply take advantage of digital media to suit their interests and needs. A space which was initially conceived as a means to "hang" amateur photos has become a medium for the exchange of opinions and wishes, and the construction of personality.

 


[1] Morduchowicz, R. (2004) El capital cultural de los jóvenes, Buenos Aires: Fondo de Cultura   Económica. Pág. 34.

[2]  We understand the term subculture as emerging manifestation of an institutionalized culture either by contrast, renewal, addition, conversion, trespass or other action that is differentiated from the dominant culture.

[3] See “Las industrias audiovisuales y los nuevos medios” in Industrias de la comunicación audiovisual (2008). Barcelona: Promociones y publicaciones Universitarias.

[4] Augé, M. (1996) El sentido de los otros, Barcelona: Paidós. Pág. 24.

[5] McLuhan, M. (1996) Comprender los medios de comunicación. Las extensiones del ser humano.  Barcelona: Paidós. Pág. 67.

 

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