I am a sociology student who is doing his master’s thesis on gender in the context of sixth graders’ relations to their mobile phones. Focus groups with a class of sixth graders and interviews with their current teacher as well as one of their past teachers will make up the main part of my data. Most of the focus groups have already been conducted, and they’ve produced some fruitful information on the complex ways that the mobile phone configures into the everyday lives of children.
It seems clear that data collected by a sociologist and an “outsider” who the students aren’t familiar with differs from that collected by a teacher or another authority figure who the students know. The children have let me in on some interesting information they maybe wouldn’t have disclosed to their teachers or parents.
At times, the students have also taken over the interviewing in the focus groups while I have just listened in. It’s become clear to me that the children have much more knowledge on many of the intricacies of the world of mobile and digital technology than I do. Many dimensions of the students’ “phone world” can only be illuminated by a slang and new vocabulary unknown to older generations. This is exactly why children and youth should be given the freedom to themselves take the lead in discussions on the digital technology of today. A central objective of my thesis is to mediate the voice of the students to those interested in the sociology of mobile phones.
More to come later…