The need for speed: how faster internet speeds are redefining family relationships

Having already established Veronica’s and Peter’s memories of television, I interviewed them about their experiences of fast broadband access in the home.

Peter articulates some of the benefits he has experienced:

“I am able to enjoy more functionality such as reading the news, banking online and Watching TV while using an iPaddownloading music, movies and TV shows, often while multitasking. I can watch the football on TV and stream soccer or cricket on my iPad.”

For Veronica, fast broadband access has opened up a whole new world to pursue her love of fashion, homewares and cooking:

“Using eBay has become much quicker and more streamlined. But it has also fuelled an interest in collecting. I now have the freedom not to have to watch sport when it is on.”

Peter also comments that his family’s online activities has led to a need to increase their data limit:

“We started with 10 mg of data. Then 30, 50, 100, 200, 500 and now 1,000…We don’t have access to the NBN but find ADSL2 speeds sufficient.”

These insights reveal the way faster broadband access has fuelled a gradual shift in media use from that ofthe ‘family television’ to individualised media lifestyles (Livingstone 2007, p.307). While Veronica and Peter share a common space, they are plugged into entirely separate spaces of existence. Just as the arrival of the television set into the family home prompted a considerable rearrangement of domestic space, fast broadband access coupled the multiplication of personally owned media has reorganised homes into communal spaces and individual, privatised spaces (Livingstone 2007, p.307). This has resulted in the ‘compartmentalisation of family life’ (Rompaey 2001, cited in Livingstone 2007, p.315) and the notion of ‘living together separately’ (Flichy 2006, cited in Livingstone 2007, p.315).The Net Generation Family Evening

Interestingly, when I asked Peter whether his initial goal – to summon a deeper understanding of the impact of technology on his family – was achieved through this research task, he commented:

“I have come to realise the way technologies have enabled my family to share content and develop closer bonds.”

Reflecting on Peter’s response, it has become clear that although media use is increasingly privatised, the Content curation shareindividual pursuits of each family member can also have a positive impact on the institution of the family. Family members can share content such as interesting news stories, funny cat videos and must-see Reddit posts in ways which strengthen family bonds and provide a platform for family togetherness (Villegas 2013, p.8). This indicates that the impact of fast broadband access on the home cannot be tucked into a precise group of positives or negatives. At the same time, the value of collaborative ethnography has also become evident as the process of co-interpretation helped to yield richer insights into a complex, multifaceted issue.

This is a fascinating artistic portrayal of ‘bedroom culture’, a term used to describe the way young people’s bedrooms are becoming a centre of private online activity. The rise of ‘bedroom culture’ exemplifies the privatisation of media use and the impact of technology on family dynamics.

Reference List:

Livingstone, S 2007, ‘From family television to bedroom culture: Young people’s media at home’, in E. Devereux (ed.), Media Studies: Key issues and Debates, Sage, London, p.302-321.

Villegas, A 2013, ‘The Influence of Technology on Family Dynamics’, Proceedings of the New York State Communication Association, vol.12, no.10, p.1-18.


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