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Becoming digital: an exploration of digital media in young people's lives

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posted on 02.03.2017, 02:20 by Pangrazio, Luciana Jane
This thesis investigates the increasingly complex ways in which young people engage with digital media. The study took an approach informed by new literacies and critical internet studies to examine the (dis)connections that exist across the digital and non-digital contexts of young people's everyday lives. In particular, it focused on how digital media use plays a part in young people’s capacity to form and represent their identities, communicate with others and participate in society. Drawing on a year long period of data generation with 13 participants (aged 15 to 19 years) from the Melbourne metropolitan area, the study documented young people’s digital practices; the critical understandings that these young people brought to their digital practices; and how and where these understandings were developed. In contrast to popular notions of the empowered and enabled ‘digital native’, the findings present a more restrained picture of young people’s digital lives. For example, the findings show how young people’s formation of online identities remained closely ‘tethered’ to their offline corporeal identities – with little evidence of the fluidity and flexibility of practice popularly associated with the internet. The findings also highlight the influence of the coded architectures of digital platforms that were being used by young people, together with the social contexts in which digital practices were embedded, in particular within peer group, school and family. This shaping was especially notable in the limited ways in which young people were using digital media to communicate and interact with others. Above all, the study highlights the limited tools and resources that these young people were able to draw on in order to understand the more complex and interconnected practices they experienced through their use of digital media. As such, the study concludes by considering the problematic gaps that exist between young people’s experiences of digital media, academic theorisations of this relationship, and common educational approaches to digital literacies.


Campus location


Principal supervisor

Neil Selwyn

Additional supervisor 1

Ilana Snyder

Year of Award


Department, School or Centre


Degree Type



Faculty of Education