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Title:Seeing the way they are in the way they IM: case studies of instant messaging in Taiwanese fifth graders' lives
Author(s):Huang, Wanju
Director of Research:Witz, Klaus
Doctoral Committee Chair(s):Witz, Klaus
Doctoral Committee Member(s):Christians, Clifford G.; Noffke, Susan E.; Page, Ralph C.
Department / Program:Curriculum and Instruction
Discipline:Curriculum and Instruction
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Subject(s):Instant Messaging (IM)
Computer-mediated communication (CMC)
Children development
Computer education
Philosophy of Technology
Curriculum development
Abstract:Empirical studies suggest instant messaging (IMing) is a dominant Internet activity among teenagers and has been portrayed as an essential element in teenagers’ social lives. How IMing exists in younger aged children, however, receives little investigation. What a person’s IMing usage can tell us beyond its critical role in one’s personal relations deserves further exploration. With this in mind, I interviewed five 11-year-old elementary school students in Taiwan on their use of IMing with peers over Yahoo!Messenger and on their interactions with their “online friends” in online gaming chat rooms. To achieve my research goal I adopted two approaches in this study. First, to understand the role of Yahoo! Messenger in a child’s life I asked questions such as: “How it is related to the child’s personal elationships?”; “ How did it become a part of the child’s Internet activities?”; “Where is it situated in the child’s daily life?” Second, I also sought to obtain a larger picture of the child through examining the ways the child used Yahoo! Messenger. In other words, I looked at the ways the child’s IMing reflected his or her character and ideas about friendship. To capture the nature of the child’s IMing experience and how it is related to other aspects in the larger image of the child, I adopted the “participant as ally—essentialist portraiture approach” research methodology, which argues that a researcher’s task is not just to understand the investigated phenomenon but also to explore how the investigated phenomenon ties into the other aspects of the participant’s life. The primary research data are in-depth interviews with five 11-year-old children, each of whom had three to four 40-minute interviews. I conducted hourlong interviews with the children’s parents, and their homeroom and computer teachers to obtain a richer understanding of these children. The research findings suggest there were immediate effects of the computer education on the children’s Internet activities. In the computer class the fourth grade students were taught how to use Yahoo! Messenger. I observed the use of Yahoo! Messenger among these students and their peers immediately after this class. IMing quickly became an afterschool activity and their primary Internet activity. My second discovery is that each child’s own strong and distinct identity was apparent in the ways they each used IMing. Who the child was in the real world was never left behind when he or she IMed. Further, the images of the child’s family, parents, and peer groups were also reflected in the essence and nature of the child. The third research finding indicates that Yahoo! Messenger was a social tool assisting these children in maintaining their offline friendships (and online friendships for three of them). Nevertheless, in their perceptions of genuine personal relationships, in-person contact was considered indispensable. These research findings were possible to achieve because the spirit of the essentialist portraiture research methodology puts the participant in a caring relationship with the researcher and yields a more holistic image of the participant. All five participants in this study noticed and commented favorably on the relationship they felt with me.
Issue Date:2010-08-20
Rights Information:Copyright 2010 Wanju Huang
Date Available in IDEALS:2010-08-20
Date Deposited:2010-08

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