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KakaoTalk and Facebook

Korean American Youth Constructing Hybrid Identities


Jiwoo Park and Dafna Lemish

KakaoTalk and Facebook: Korean American Youth Constructing Hybrid Identities explores the role smartphones play in the lives of Korean American youth as they explore their identities and navigate between fitting into their host society and their Korean heritage. Employing multiple methodologies, this book gives voice to the youth’s personal experiences, identity struggles, and creative digital media practices. While similar in many aspects to other American youth, they also differ greatly in the central roles that their smartphones’ use plays in maintaining their mastery of the Korean language, connecting to Korean pop culture, and cultivating their social networks with other co-ethnic peers and homeland relatives and friends. The results of this study challenge traditional assumptions about assimilation of second generation immigrants into a host society and suggest that digital technologies facilitate the process of segmented assimilation, according to which ethnic identities continue to play a central role in the identity of children of immigrants. KakaoTalk and Facebook will be of great interest to scholars and educators of media and youth and those exploring how digital media have changed the nature of immigration processes in dramatic ways.

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Chapter 4. Digital Media and the Construction of Korean Identity


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Our second research question of this study was: How do these youths engage in the exploration and the development of their ethnic identity? We discovered in this study evidence on the Korean ethnic identity of the participants, demonstrating that contrary to expectations, first-and-a-half and second generation immigrant youths do not differ from each other in either the centrality of their ethnic identity or most of their digital media practices in their everyday lives. Both groups are actively engaged in using digital media to negotiate their culture of origin and their place in the world in which they are growing up. Comparing the results of this study with studies on immigration and identity construction prior to the advent of digital media suggest that the latter greatly facilitate the ability to maintain a strong ethnic identity, thereby shaping a different immigration experience.

Measuring Ethnic Identity

Six questions in the MEIM–R (Multigroup Ethnic Identity Measure-Revised, see Chapter One) part of the survey questionnaire, asked participants to use a Likert scale to rank a variety of statements regarding the ways in which they have explored and committed to their ethnic group. The list of six close-ended items of the MEIM–R, which assess exploration of and commitment ← 67 | 68 → to one’s ethnic identity, is shown in the Appendix B. The items in the exploration factor were concerned with learning more about one’s ethnic...

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