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The merits of Bourdieu in qualitative audience research: Uncovering class and continuity in the fragmented space of media practice
Halmstad University, School of Health and Welfare, Centre of Research on Welfare, Health and Sport (CVHI), The Wigforss Group.ORCID iD: 0000-0002-3070-4717
2017 (English)In: NordMedia 2017: 23rd Nordic Conference on Media and Communication Research: Tampere, 17–19 August 2017, Abstracts, TWG 8, Audience Studies, 2017Conference paper, Abstract (Refereed)
Abstract [en]

For someone leaning towards statistical data analyses and showing little interest in the media as an integral part of people’s everyday life, French sociologist Pierre Bourdieu has surprisingly much to offer qualitative audience research in an increasingly complex everyday media environment. Drawing on the analytical experiences from a media ethnographic study on digital media practice in the everyday lives of young men (16-19 years) with different class backgrounds, this paper argues that Bourdieusian theory, despite certain limitations, might advance qualitative audience research in the “media manifold” (Couldry, 2012) in at least three important respects: (1) The first merit of Bourdieu’s theoretical framework is that it enables us to conceptualize and analyse the seemingly mundane media practices of everyday life as involved in macrostructural power relations and processes, e.g. social class and social reproduction. How people orientate and navigate themselves among the various possibilities embedded in their everyday media environment is clearly a matter of taste, and taste is neither innocent nor neutral in terms of class. Hence, Bourdieu might prevent us from getting stuck in what David Morley (2009) has called “an endless play of contextual specificity and infinite difference”. (2) The second merit of Bourdieusian theory in the context of qualitative audience research is that it allows us to grasp digital media practice not as an exceptional, almost elevated kind of practice, but as a variety of practices among other cultural practices. This accomplishes an important break with the still quite prevalent media-centrism and techno-romanticism of early new media studies, and thus makes it possible to pose new, perhaps more critical questions about the various roles of digital media in people’s everyday lives. (3) Because Bourdieusian theory allows us to theorize digital media practice as a variety of practices among other cultural practices, i.e. as an inseparable part of entire lifestyles in Bourdieu’s sense of the word – lifestyles through which social power relations (e.g. class) are expressed and reproduced – it also has the merit of supporting critical interrogations of the association commonly made between digital innovation, young people and social change. In other words, it makes it possible to uncover and make sense of the social and cultural continuities at play within recent technological changes, as well as the structural differences concealed by the widespread generational rhetoric of “digital natives” and “digital immigrants” (Prensky, 2001).

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2017.
National Category
Media and Communications
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:hh:diva-34768OAI: oai:DiVA.org:hh-34768DiVA: diva2:1135240
Conference
NordMedia 2017: Mediated Realities - Global Challenges, Tampere, Finland, August 17-19, 2017
Available from: 2017-08-22 Created: 2017-08-22 Last updated: 2017-08-22Bibliographically approved

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