Date of Award

2016

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Sociology

Abstract

While the literature on adolescent usage of the Internet and mobile communication technology is burgeoning, the technological affordance of increased intergenerational contacts and intergenerational friendships received less attention. This project documents how intergenerational virtual networks operate in one particular massively multiplayer online game (World of Warcraft) from the standpoint of adolescent players. Online social worlds are similar to offline settings in a lot of ways. Users must obey certain behavioral standards and follow established rules and moral codes to participate. Despite accounts of online democracy and networked individualism, control and authority is central to the functioning of these environments. Power-relationships are structured by technological protocols and affordances. However, within the social space created by technology, participants actively create and re-create cultural customs shaping experience. Using the ethnographic methods of participant observation and semi-structured, open-ended interviews, this project documents the ways a different form of mature behavior, ematurity, is emerging in online spaces. Ematurity means that skilled adolescents with the right set of cultural toolkits and impression management techniques are able to participate as social equals in adult governed environments. The main foundation of emature habitus is social class. Ematurity allows young people to maintain desirable and acceptable social selves in adultist environments. While ematurity is redefining the currently narrow means of adult-youth interaction and friendship, it does not signal the end of childhood.

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Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.

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