19 SES 09 A, Young People, Digital Identities and Online Places
Research of online interactions may be divided according to two kinds of methodological approaches: on the one hand, those based on data scrapes and big-data and, on the other hand, those building on qualitative ethnographic methods including face-to-face fieldwork with observations and interviews (Postill & Pink, 2012; Pink et al., 2016). In this presentation, we focus on the latter, thus exploring not only online engagements but the interwovenness of online-offline interactions.
In the presentation, we suggest that embodied learning forms the backdrop for young people’s digitally mediated practices. In line with the early studies of Miller & Slater, we approach online engagements as ‘continuous with and embedded in other social spaces’, happening ‘within mundane social structures and relations that they may transform but that they cannot escape into a self-enclosed cyberian apartness’ (Miller & Slater, 2000:5). Through explorations of everyday life embodied practices, we discuss how young people’s embodied and emplaced learning processes unfold in the interwoven space of online and offline aspects of everyday life.
With theoretical point of departure in the philosophical writings of Maurice Merleau-Ponty (1908-1961), and phenomenologically oriented work on embodiment and place (Casey, 1985, 1999; Ehn & Löfgren, 2006; Frykman & Gilje, 2003; Ingold, 2000, 2011; Jackson, 1996; Miller, 2008; Winther, 2006), we discuss how everyday life experiences of young people transgress online-offline distinctions. The presentation focuses on an important concept of thought in the oeuvre of Merleau-Ponty, the sedimentation, and on how this notion has inspired the analysis of our empirical material from settings in which online and offline experiences to various degrees interweave.
Merleau-Ponty uses the term sedimentation to describe how perception, although happening in immediate and spontaneous interactions with an environment, is also based on embodied learning, or sedimented perceptions. Sedimented, bodily memories reach across time, as experiences and practices from the past link the habituated body to people, objects and places in the present (Casey, 1985; Merleau-Ponty, 2012). Sedimentation is to be understood, not as a dense and unchangeable mass, but as traces of past experiences which are constantly changing as they are brought forward in present perceptions. These sedimentations are creating what Merleau-Ponty also describes as a mental panorama we carry with us (Merleau-Ponty, 2012). Thus, sedimentations enable us to bring previous experiences into the embodied perception of the present. Building on Merleau-Ponty, Casey (1999) and Ingold (2011) have suggested that as experiences of actions are sedimented in bodies, human actions are also sedimented in places. Thus, Casey proposes, places and bodies ‘interanimate’ each other (1999:24).
We suggest that an important background for understanding young people’s online interactions are the sedimented individual and social experiences which work as references for their conversations. We unfold this idea through the analysis of empirical material from fieldwork among young people in Kenya and Denmark which aims to illuminate the following questions: how do embodied memories of previous interactions and experiences form the background for online interactions between siblings, friends and agemates? How do individual and communal experiences of materialities and places enter into these interactions? Which kinds of intersecting temporalities are emerging? And how does the combination of phenomenological and digital ethnographic methods expand our understandings of young people’s lifeworlds in various parts of the world?
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