Changes in ICT Usage in Times of Scarcity

Monday, July 14, 2014: 6:15 PM
Room: 315
Distributed Paper
Ana HORTA , Institute of Social Sciences University of Lisbon, Portugal
The information and communication technologies (ICT) market has been showing a remarkable expansion. Considering the severe financial and economic crisis some countries are currently facing, and the restrictions in several forms of consumption due to scarcity, what changes may be affecting ICT usage in everyday life? This presentation tries to address how are individuals adapting to new challenges related to inequity of (material) access to ICT and a growing digital divide in ICT usage opportunities, which may emerge and become particularly relevant in a context of scarcity such as the one Portugal is now experiencing.

The research adopts an approach based in recent theoretical developments in sociology of communication, which consists in analyzing media as practice. This perspective enables media research to move beyond a narrow focus on audience practices in order to understand the complexity of contemporary media-saturated cultures (Couldry, 2004). Studying the whole range of practices focused directly or indirectly on ICT allows understanding how ICT are embedded in everyday life and are constitutive of routines (Couldry, 2004; Pink and Mackley, 2013). By focusing on social practices, attention is shifted from the individuals’ agency and choice to the processes whereby structural elements such as materials (things, technologies, physical entities), competences (skills, know-how, techniques), and meanings (symbolic, ideas, aspirations) are connected and enacted in the form of patterns of practices, thus allowing to explain the dynamics of reproduction and transformation of social practices (Shove, Pantzar, Watson, 2012).

The analysis draws upon data from in-depth interviews conducted with people from diverse social groups in terms of age, education and socio-economic status. Results show the complexity of the relations established between individuals’ practices, motivations, knowledge and material conditions related to ICT use.