Home & Away: Reflecting on Research

“Where we love is home- home that our feet may leave but not our hearts.” ~ Oliver Wendell Holmes 

Home is a concept I’ve always found interesting. Having moved interstate three times and lived in two other countries, it’s safe to say that I’ve had a fair few homes. Right now, I’d probably call where my parents live home. It’s where I went to high school, grew up, and it’s where all of my stuffed toys are stored. I love going home, but due to studying and working down in Wollongong, six hours away from my parents home by train, I don’t get to visit often. And because I don’t visit, I’ve found myself becoming very dependent on media technologies to keep relationships strong and alive back home, which got me wondering about how other students and friend that I have who do live out of home balance their ‘home’ and their ‘newly created home.’ This curiosity drove my research question of “how do people manage their life at home and their new life away from home?” 

Even Marilyn spent time hanging by the phone. Source
Even Marilyn spent time hanging by the phone. Source

Who & Why?

I interviewed four people who all have interesting stories when it comes to managing home through the use of media. I started with myself and discovered an unnamed phenomenon of my parents talking to me as I walk home alone. Secondly, I interviewed my Brazilian friend Charline, where she discussed long Skype chats, managing time zones and her perception of home always being Brazil, challenging Meyroitz’s theory of placelessness. Thirdly, I talked with my friend Bacon, an international student from Malaysia who believes home is where you make it and that technology can get in the way of living in the moment. And lastly I spoke to my housemate Luke as we discussed media etiquette required to manage both spaces effectively. I felt that I captured diverse perspectives and experiences that were useful in capturing the complexity of balancing and managing space through media technology however also made it more exciting when I noticed similarities.

Challenges

With any major research task, there are always challenges to overcome. Whilst I discussed my research idea with many other friends and I had intended to showcase more people and their stories, however some of Torsten Hägerstrand’s restrictions came in to play. The restriction of ‘can I get there?’ and ‘can I get there on time?’ influence and affected the amount of time I had to prepare due to end of session stress and work overload before a deadline. Whilst taking these into consideration, I decided to choose and focus on fewer stories but capture more insight and perspective from these people.

The platform

I decided use the medium of a blog post because firstly, it’s the platform I’m most comfortable and confident with and I’m always looking to add new and interesting content to it. Secondly, I felt like it was a nice thing for my interviewees to walk away with. Many of them had already read previous posts regarding the media through my blog so I thought it only made sense to have an element of continuity. It’s something that they can share with family and friends, and the feedback I received about being featured on my blog was extremely positive and encouraging.

Occupying two places at once. Source
Occupying two places at once. Source

Results

A theme that was common between myself and my friends was the concept of a ‘double reality’ and occupying two spaces at the same time (Foschini, 2009). This theory furthermore sparked and encouraged my curiosity because I’d never thought about it in that way.

All of us used social media like ‘Facebook to facilitate the formation and maintenance of social capital. In addition to assessing bonding and bridging social capital, we explore a dimension of social capital that assesses one’s ability to stay connected with members of a previously inhabited community, which we call maintained social capital’ (Ellison, Steinfield & Lampe,  2007). Whilst I would argue the term social capital is too impersonal, sterile and serious, and perhaps communities or networks would be a better alternative, it was interesting to see that all of us predominantly relied on phone calls and audio to balance life at home and their new life away from home. However, this was exclusively for family. Social media was used to form and maintain social networks among friends.

The following video offers some words of advice to keep in touch with people once you move away. With a touch of comedy and a some accuracy, this video captures ways in which people manage their home life and their life away frome home. 

I also liked the fact that ‘home’ meant something different for everyone. Bacon believes home is where you make it, whereas Charline believes that her home will always be Brazil no matter where she lives. For Luke and I we both associate home with where our parents live. This could potentially be influenced by cultural factors or age, however I found it reassuring that home meant something different to everyone.

Usefullness to media industries 

By sitting down and casually discussing Charline, Bacon and Luke’s ways of keeping in touch with family and friends back home, I was able to engage in a more ethnographic study to get an insider’s perspective on balancing home life and their new life out of home. All three of my interviewees seemed to encounter significant issues with Skype. Upon my self-reflection, I purely focused on phone calls home. I believe that all of their stories (and frustrations) could be used in an extremely convincing way to media industries. Firstly, on how to develop audio-visual communication. Perhaps people would be willing to pay if they were guaranteed exceptional connection? And secondly, the case of Bacon making phone calls back to Malaysia because of free international minutes, perhaps this could encourage other phone providers to follow suit to make prices even more competitive and consumer friendly.

Future Research

I was extremely intrigued by Luke’s self-regulation on how he uses his phone when talking to his parents. Not only to show respect to them, but also to show respect to friends around him. It would be interesting to do further research on self-regulation around media use in social situations.

The most important thing…

The most significant thing that I will take away from this project (besides working on time management which is something I can always improve) is to always start with a discussion on the topic you are investigating. Instead of starting off with a list of twenty questions and firing away, it’s crucial to actively listen to what your interviewee is saying because they might just surprise you. I was surprised with themes that our conversations uncovered and I feel like these were invaluable to my research and telling their stories.

***

Thank you to everyone who helped in the creation of my digital storytelling project of how people manage their home life and life away from home. Special thanks to my awesome interviewees Charline, Bacon and Luke. Your opinions and perspectives have been so insightful and I genuinely appreciate the time you took out from your busy lives to sit down and talk with me. 

***

Further Information

Jessica Shaftoe explores the way in which we are always connected through our buzzing and beeping mobile phones. Her video that she created is especially well put together, asking the question ‘are we too accessible?’ This also ties into Bacon’s perspective and value towards living in the moment, and sometimes this may required disconnecting for a while.

References

Ellison, N, Steinfield, C, & Lampe, C 2007, ‘The Benefits of Facebook “Friends:” Social Capital and College Students’ Use of Online Social Network Sites’, Journal Of Computer-Mediated Communication, 12, 4, pp. 1143-1168, Communication & Mass Media Complete,  viewed 30 October 2015, http://ezproxy.uow.edu.au/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=ufh&AN=26313783&site=eds-live

Foschini, T 2009, The Doubling of Place: The Electronic Media, Time-Space Arrangements and Social Relationships – Shaun Moores, Tori’s Blog, 3 April, accessed 24 October 2015, https://tfoschini.wordpress.com/2009/04/03/the-doubling-of-place-electronic-media-time-space-arrangements-and-social-relationships-shaun-moores/

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