Social media: digital content creation and sharing. A study of adults

Riley, T. 2014. Social media: digital content creation and sharing. A study of adults. PhD thesis University of Westminster Faculty of Media, Arts and Design

TitleSocial media: digital content creation and sharing. A study of adults
TypePhD thesis
AuthorsRiley, T.

In the first few years of the 21st Century, access to and use of Web 2.0 digital technologies by everyday, non-professional web users increased considerably in the UK. Today anyone of any age with access to a computer, digital tools and an internet connection can engage in social media dialogues as creators and publishers of digital content. This practice is no longer the preserve of the professional. Many academics and media commentators see this as a significant shift from the way individuals traditionally receive and ‘passively’ consume media to a position where they are more actively, responsively and inclusively engaged.

In the last fifteen years much research has been concerned with the online actives of children and young people. Several web commentators have written with enthusiasm of the ‘net generation’ and ‘digital natives’. However, little research has been conducted into the digital and online engagement of adult web users. This study investigates how adults aged 18-28, 40-50 and +65 create, publish and share content online. Content creation, in the context of this project, is defined as an arrangement of visual and/or audio material that requires some element of composition or editing. Through the use of qualitative interviews this research provides an insight into the practices of these three age ranges of adults who use digital technology and the internet to create and share their content. The study addresses how they use content sharing to communicate online and their motivations for engaging in these practices. Issues of this kind are of importance for individuals’ selfexpression and participation in an increasingly digitalised world. The research found that participants from all age groups often used both digital and analogue technologies side-by-side and this helped, rather than hindered, their ability to create and share content. Several participants, particularly the over-65s, revealed that digital technologies were enablers that unlocked suppressed behaviour and creative desires. Artistic self-expression, personal achievement, affiliation to others and receiving recognition and feedback were all given as motivational reasons for creating and sharing content across the age spectrum. The research findings offer an alternative to the over-simplistic and sometimes polemical perception that the so-called ‘digital generation’ are more digitally adept and literate than older internet users.

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