Understanding Young People's Use and Experience of Digital Media: A Multi-Modal Approach

Thursday, 19 July 2018
Distributed Paper
Valerie CAMPBELL, University of Prince Edward Island, Canada
Janet LOEBACH, University of Prince Edward Island, Canada
Digital media is a fact of life for many of today’s youth. The Digital Media and Young Lives over Time Project examined the ways in which youth spend their time engaging with digital media as well as their complex relationship with the media. Following McLuhan (1994) we feel it is an understanding of young people’s experience with technology that is of value - “the medium is the message” (p.7). Key to this understanding is the concept of digital capital, a complex set of social processes and relations grounded in digital cultures, but which has yet to be fully examined as it relates to digital media and young lives over time. This study was designed to comprehensively examine the use and experience of digital media among youth aged 16-19 years in Canada, Scotland, and Australia and understand how engagement with digital media translates to digital capital. We employed a multi-modal design which included video-recorded face-to-face interviews with 145 youth participants, a demographic survey, and the capture and analysis of images and text from participants’ digital media activity on platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, and Tumblr. Data from videos, surveys, and social media platforms were integrated to create a “digital portrait” in both narrative and video form for each participant. Preliminary analysis reveals the paradoxical nature of the relationship youth have with the digital media they feel compelled to interact with on a perpetual basis. This paper will highlight the decision-making processes and challenges required to collect, integrate, analyze, and translate data from multiple modalities within a strong ethical framework.


McLuhan, M. (1994). Understanding media: The extensions of man. Boston, MA: The MIT Press.