Wednesday, 28 July 2010

YOUTH 2010

Last week I returned from a one month trip to Europe, hence why I haven't written much for a while. Aside from visiting some good friends of mine, the reason for my trip was to attend a youth studies conference, run by the British Sociological Association (BSA) youth studies group. It was a three day conference (July 7 - 9), organised by Paul Hodkinson, Sian Lincoln and Rachel Brooks. It was a truly fantastic conference and I wanted to recount some of the highlights here.

My paper, a trimmed down version of the article I recently had published called 'Randoms in my Bedroom' was quite early on in the conference which is always a bonus. I spoke about how the young people in my study deployed a coherent spectrum of 'Friending' practices in using their preferred social network sites (primarily Facebook with a smattering of MySpace) and how these practices translated to a kind of practical control over their perceived online spaces. The paper seemed to be well received with plenty of questions and people approaching me afterwards. I was also lucky enough to present my paper in the same session as two other youth studies scholars. First was Liam Berriman from Goldsmiths, who presented his research on Habbo Hotel, a virtual environment pitched at teenagers. Liam discussed how the environment is shaped and inhabited by young people through a model of co-constitution that accounts for users, producers and the space itself. The other presenter in my session was Paula Geldens from Swinburne, who discussed her research into 'Generation Y' discourse in Australia. My own work often claims to resist such discourses (including that implied 'digital native' one, and of course discourses that construct online sociality as inherently counterproductive or wasteful) so Paula's research is definitely something I'll be returning to.

Andy's keynote

There was one other session I attended that had clear intersections with new media/internet-studies, which I chaired, featuring the work of Melissa Avdeeff (Edinburgh) and Helen Davies. Melissa's work actually has some continuities with my own work. While her paper did focus on music and issues of taste, she also considered how social network sites operate as 'invisible' (natural, everyday) technologies of transmission: 'for these youths, the technology is invisible; they must negotiate relationships with each other, through the filter of technology'. Melissa also had some interesting observations on eclecticism, an area of her research I'm particularly keen to read more about in the future.

Although slightly off-track from my own research, there were some other really great papers from the conference. I won't recount them all here in any depth, but for my own memory: I really liked Mark McCormack's (Bath) paper on 'the erosion of homophobia and the softening of masculinity among the boys of an English sixth form' and Michael Whelan's paper on violence amongst young men in London. There was also a great panel of familiar faces titled 'when youth culture meets middle-age', including the work of our own Jodie Taylor on queer culture, the entertaining Mary Fogarty on b-boys/b-girls and the very inspiring work of Paul Hodkinson on ageing goth subcultures.

Left to right: Erik, Melissa, me, Jodie and Mary
Some other highlights included four really great plenary/keynote sessions from Rob MacDonald, our own Andy Bennett, Christine Griffin and finally Les Back. Very motivating stuff. All the 'socialising', networking, learning and preparing took it out of me I must say, but I did manage to sneak in a couple of weeks worth of extra-curricular activities in London and Paris before returning to Australia for classes this week. It's not everyday your University sends you to Europe!