Parenthood – University of Copenhagen

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The Mediatization of Parenthood

Main researcher: Maja Sonne Damkjaer (doctoral study)

Interactive and mobile technologies contribute to important changes in family relations and practices in contemporary Western Society (Livingstone and Ranja, 2010; Clark, 2010), and the amount of web content addressed directly to parents has increased during the past 5-8 years. This doctoral study aims to explore in which ways and with what consequences the family institution, especially parenthood, is intertwined with Internet media.

Becoming a parent results in major changes emotionally, practically and socially and involves a need for support and guidance. Over the course of several generations, interpersonal media (letters and calls to family and friends) and mass media (distributing generic counselling and information) have accommodated these needs, but today the Internet offers a variety of new interactive, individualised and personalised media providing counselling (e.g., paediatric information), social interaction (e.g., online communities), commercial services (e.g., child equipment stores) and all-in- one-solutions: parent web sites. In addition to this are social networks (e.g., Facebook) and homepages that display family life through private narratives, photos and videos.

The focal point of the project is to what extent and for what purposes parents appropriate Internet media and how this appropriation involves transformations of parenthood in relation to other life spheres (work spaces, public spaces, commercial spaces), actors (family, friends, colleagues) and forms of interaction in relation to theories of individualisation and risk society (Beck, 1992; Bech-Gernsheim, 2002; Clark, 2010).
Empirically, the project will revolve around a series of qualitative interviews with first-year and fifth-year parents supported by logbooks and surveys. By focusing on significant patterns and dissimilarities, the project will analyse the characteristics and affordances of a selection of Internet media types and texts that these parents use frequently and deem valuable.

Damkjaer (2008) has argued that modern parenting magazines in print facilitate a rite of passage closely connected to lifestyle preferences and meticulously staged consumption, thereby supporting an aestheticization of parenthood. Building on this work, the overall hypothesis of this doctoral study suggests that Internet media as well facilitate and constitute a new kind of mediatized and aestheticized parental face work (Goffmann, 1992) and a radicalised parenting reflectivity (Clark, 2010).

References

Beck U. and E. Beck-Gernsheim (2002). Individualization. London: Sage.

Beck, U. (1992). Risk Society: Towards a New Modernity. London: Sage.

Clark, Lynn Schfield (2010). "Parenting in a Digital Age: Introduction", http://digitalparenting.wordpress.com/2010/12/09/parenting-in-a-digital-age-introduction/ (last accessed February 23, 2011).

Damkjaer, Maja Sonne (2008). Flow and Consumption in Parenting Magazines - a Study of an Underexposed Media Phenomenon. MA Thesis, Department of Information and Media Studies, Aarhus University.

Goffman, Erving (1992). Vore rollespil i hverdagen. København: Hans Reitzels Forlag.

Livingstone, Sonia & Das, Ranjana (2010). Media, Communication and Information Technologies in the European Family. Working reports: Existential Fields, EF8. Family Platform Project. http://eprints.lse.ac.uk/29788/1/EF8_LSE_MediaFamily_Education.pdf (last accessed February 2, 2011).