This thesis explores young people's experiences of contemporary, commercial media.
It aims to provide a holistic understanding of new and more traditional media use.
The study draws its theoretical framework from the fields of communication studies,
consumer behaviour, cultural studies, marketing, sociology and social psychology.
Despite several studies investigating young people and new media, a richer
understanding of media consumption is needed, located within an ever more
commercialised landscape. Assumptions of new media participation are frequently
taken for granted, with limited critical analysis of the consumer experience. Studies
from a marketing perspective have focused exclusively on managerial effectiveness to
the detriment of consumer realities. Moving beyond media effects, it takes an active
consumer-centered approach, contextualising new media consumption within the
everyday lives of young people. It compares and contrasts practitioner tactics with
young people's lived experiences of new and traditional media.
Multiple methods of enquiry were used, informed by an interpretive approach. The
initial fieldwork consisted of 15 interviews with 'expert' agency practitioners,
investigating perceptions of youth marketing and the tactics deployed. Following a
pilot study, the main consumer phase explored the mediated experiences of
adolescents aged 13-17. A total of 175 secondary school pupils from three diverse
school settings participated. Each completed a self-completion questionnaire, a
smaller sample also contributing a time-based diary. 45 pupils participated in the
qualitative phase, guided by the principles of phenomenology. Photo-elicitation and
psycho-drawing techniques were utilised to enrichen discussions.
The new media experiences of young people in this study were indeed bound up in
their everyday lives. Young people were found to have a complex range of 'newmedia'
experiences, embedded in their 'in home' and 'out of home' lifestyles. Their
active use of the internet, for mood enhancement, experiential learning, escapism and
communication, rarely encompassed commercial motivations. Of several barriers to
new media use, online practitioner tactics caused the greatest concern. For many
young people, such actions were deeply de-motivating, constituting an unwanted
intrusion, in contrast to the symbiotic relationship synonymous with traditional
advertising. Their consequent elusiveness is epitomised through the metaphor "sand
in the hand".