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Communication Across the Life Span


Edited By Jon F. Nussbaum

As we grow up and grow old, embrace new experiences, try new roles, and adopt new technologies, our senses of time, space, connection, and identity are fundamentally explored through communication. Why, how, with whom, and to what end humans communicate reflect and shape our ever-changing life span position. And while the «life span» can be conceived as a continuum, it is also one hinged by critical junctures and bound by cultural differences that can be better understood through communication.
The chapters in this collection, chosen from among the invited plenary speakers, top research papers, and ideas discussed in San Juan, explore the multiple ways communication affects, reflects, and directs our life transition. Capturing the richness and diversity of scholarship presented at the conference, chapters explore communication technologies that define a generation; communication and successful aging; stereotyping and family communication; sexual communication and physiological measurement; life span communication and the digital divide; and home-based care contexts across the world, among others.
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Chapter One: Young People and Communication Technologies: Emerging Challenges in Generational Analysis


← 4 | 5 →CHAPTER ONE

Young People and Communication Technologies

Emerging Challenges in Generational Analysis


Distinct “media generations” are identified through the association of successive generations of youths with the most prevalent media of their time. The resulting labels, ranging from “television generation” to “digital natives,” seem to offer a convenient shorthand for describing media consumers of different eras. However, generational labels are often superficial and sweeping “generationalizations” that are insufficiently nuanced for understanding marginalized, understudied populations whose social and family contexts depart from the norm. Even so, the shortcomings of generationalizations should not detract from the value of the generational approach in studying media consumers and their traits, attitudes, and practices. In this chapter, I argue that the generational approach can offer productive inroads into the study of youth media practices and parental mediation, but is undermined by three emerging challenges. I conclude by suggesting ways in which researchers can strive to overcome these difficulties. I illustrate with findings from my recent research on juvenile offenders and transnational youths and also discuss them in relation to previous literature.


Media devices have evolved over time, encroaching into the domestic realm and becoming household essentials. With each wave of gadgets and innovations, new terms have emerged to capture a particular generation’s socio-technical relationship ← 5 | 6 →with their media devices, from the “television generation” and “NetGen” (Herring, 2008; Tapscott, 1999), to “digital...

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