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Seere i bleer: -små børns møde med medier

Research output: Book/anthology/dissertation/reportPh.D. thesis

This thesis deals with the media uses of very young children in their everyday life; a subject, which has so far been fairly un-investigated in media studies. It has as its purpose to investigate the role of media in the lives of one and a half to three year old children, as well ad their socializing as media users. Children's media uses takes place in interaction between the child itself as an active, meaning making individual, the structures, which defines its everyday life, and the opportunities the child is given to use and relate itself to media.

The young, not verbal, child is considered as meaning making primarily through bodily realisations and expressions. The thesis applies a body phenomenologically approach to the object of analysis, imspired by Merleau-Ponty and interpretations of his work by Løkken (toddler culture) and Hangaard Rasmussen (play and toys). Furthermore, the thesis applies the theoretical concept of attention, inspired by Strandell's descriptions of children as being browsing and orientating in their approach to the world around them.

Children's interests in media are held against textual. The thesis theoretically frames texts as both film, television programmes, internet, merchandise and toys, and in relation to the body phenomenologically perspective it is considered significant that media universes spread across platforms involving more senses than the visual. The thesis also investigates how narrative and structural elements of media texts attracts the child's attention, and how the child develops a sense of style and genre.

The thesis is based on a fundamental view on children as social beings (as opposed to becomings) and childhood as a structural category in society, determined by it's relation to similar categories (such as adulthood) and to different kinds of structures. Children are in this respect not fundamentally different from adults, but they live under different conditions which has significant impact on the analysis and the understanding of children's media uses. At the same time this approach to the studies of young children, in combination with the thesis' specific methodological set up, facilitates a strengthening of the general understanding of how both children and adults live in a thoroughly commercialised media culture.

Theory and method

The Ph.D. project implies, besides an empirically analytical project, an ambition to challenge the traditional separation og media ethnography and reception analysis, based on the idea that media in itselves, media texts, the meaning making of the individual as well as the social and cultural frames are in important in order to understand in full extent the relation between media and recipient. At the same time it is obvious that specific methodical approaches are necessary to grasp and understand the non verbal actions of a toddler.

The ethnographic perspective, as it has been used in both media studies and childhood studies offer a range of tools for data collection and makes a holistic view on media uses as structured in time, space and relations possible. Thereby it frames the understanding of the socialising which takes place when the young child enters the community of practice, which media uses in the family is understood as. The experiences and meaning making of the child in relation to multi modal texts and representations are not possible to understand solely by observing them. Concepts as attention and browsing are therefore used to analyse the movements of the child, while the body phenomenological perspective frames the understanding of meaning making as bodily rooted. The definition of toddler style, as being characterised by repetition and variation, by Løkken, forms the theoretical platform to understand, how the child develops it's viewing strategy from sporadic attention to systematic fascination.

Reflexions regarding the positioning of the researcher is essential in ethnographic fieldwork. Positioning has to do with both theoretical preconceptions and with the concrete, physical positioning during fieldwork. It is determined by the theoretical framework of the thesis and is characterised as a balancing of private and professional roles. As such, the ethnographic fieldwork of the thesis, mirrors the classical anthropological balancing of involvement and distance, just as the handling of the empirical data is permeated by interplay between category condensation and a rather controlled dialogue with the theoretical framework.


Bodily uses of media shows on different levels. Firstly, the child, through its bodily being in the world and its browsing attitude, is continuously alert towards media flow, among other things via the auditively structuring marks of media texts. The child moves to and from media, and thereby media forms a foundation for play as well as are actively adapted into play when appropriate.

Secondly, the child's body resonates the reception of media texts. Rhythm is tried out, the body mirrors the figures seen on screen and the child responds to the recognizable signs of style and genre. Movements and musical expressions seem to be specifically appealing to the one and a half year old child, since they incite physical movements. At the same time, the child's media uses are constantly evolving, and are characterised by interplay between recognition/repetition and variation/change. And thirdly, the body is the focal point of the social interplay, which takes place in the family. Media uses, especially television viewing, are an obvious opportunity of physical being together in the family.

Furthermore, children are focused towards specific elements of content in media texts. The narrative structuring of the texts are supporting the browsing movements of the one and a half year old child, while the three year old, through it's more established routines and bigger knowledge of media's modes of narration and style, to a larger extent relates to the content of the media universes, as well as uses media to support interests of things like animals or vehicles. As texts are spreading over different physical representations, they contribute to this support, and the texts, which children are especially fond of, are rooted in a multi modal, merchandised circuit. Especially texts, which are easily adaptable to physical representations, find their way into an established discourse of toys (dolls, animals and vehicles) and appeal to children and their parents.

Yet, children's media uses are not merely a relation between a child and a text. Media uses take place in a pre-established community of practice, based on parents' normative values and judgments of the field of articulation. The community of practice is understood as a media milieu consisting of the verbal and bodily actions of family members while using media. Through these actions, it is defined, what kind of content is considered valuable and what is seen as acceptable actions towards this. In other words the values of the community of practice are defined, and the child is given opportunity to react towards this. The field of articulation is understood in relation to similar fields regarding culture, body, and childhood, and the parents' strategies of action are organised towards parameters of inclusion, exclusion, variation and compensation. In all of the families, both values and actions are contrasted by a certain amount of pragmatism, since they are all emphasising the functions of children's media uses regarding the structuring of everyday life. Parents emphasise that media uses, especially television viewing, can support ‘peace and quiet' at critical times of the day, such as afternoons and weekend mornings.

There is a palette of parameters which are essential to parents' framing of children's media uses. These have to do with aesthetic judgments and with what they regard as being to the child's benefit.

In all of the families, cultural products which parents know from their own childhood and regard as having a certain quality, are handed down to their children. Most significantly, they tend to have a positive attitude towards programmes and products from DR83 or related to a Nordic tradition of children's culture. In some families, it is emphasised that programmes and products should have some kind of developmental or learning potential. As such, their attitudes are in line with international trends towards aiming edutainment products even at the youngest children.


Children relate to their parent's norms and values, and as three year olds it is possible to see how this takes place either as a reproduction or as attempts of resistance. Through this processing of the frames, they inherit; children find their own position in them. As such, children are shaping their own identities as media users; identities that they are and that they do. There is an element of performance in their identity building, while they relate to and position themselves in the community of practice and as they move from the peripheral, legitimate participation towards an identity as a media user. And from this position the child take it's starting point in relating to different communities of practice, in which media matters, such as the play culture of kindergartens and preschool.

Original languageDanish
Place of publicationInstitut for Informations- og Medievidenskab, Aarhus Universitet
Publication statusPublished - 2008
Externally publishedYes

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