Dissertation Abstracts

The Digital Face of Eros, Agape, and Philia: Adolescents, Love and Sexuality on the Internet

Author: Scarcelli, Cosimo Marco , marco.scarcelli@gmail.com
Department: Philosophy, Sociology, Educatio and Applied Psychology
University: University of Padova, Italy
Supervisor: Pina Lalli
Year of completion: 2013
Language of dissertation: Italian

Keywords: Internet , Intimacy , Adolescents , Sexuality
Areas of Research: Communication, Knowledge and Culture , Youth

Abstract

Adolescents and youth are big consumers of the internet. Today, online social media, such as social network sites (SNS), blogs, etc. are an important part of young people's lives (Pujazon-zazik, Park 2010). Youth are increasingly utilizing these communicative tools to support or to enhance their "offline" relations (Subrahmanyam, Greenfield, 2008; Livingstone 2010).
The author's research focuses on a field that is very much neglected by Italian sociological studies; it aims to understand relationship between youth culture, the internet, and sexuality.
The work seeks to understand how young Italians today use the internet to gain access to information (including visual images, discussions, and discourses) about sexuality and intimacy; to understand 'how' and 'why' they use (or choose not to use) this particular medium, and what kinds of observable social impacts this relatively new phenomenon has.
The research seeks (1) to understand what multimedia platform young Italians use to have access to information and discourses connected to sexuality; (2) to understand why they use (or don't use) this media; (3) to define the extent of Internet on youths' experiences of sexuality and their social construction; (4) to understand how gender difference could be constructed on the Internet.
This study challenges the oversimplifying characterizations of the Internet as either an entirely dangerous or entirely safe space .
With this research, the author wants to draw attention to the problematic relationships between the "real" and "virtual", between the everyday life experience that contain also what some define as "virtual" life experience, an experience mediated by the social and cognitive space where the absence of the body plays a paradoxical role in their (self) education on sexuality and identity construction.
The research is based on a qualitative approach and, more specifically, on participatory approach with focus groups, interviews, and online focus groups with adolescents between the ages of 16 to 18 years old.
The main results of the research show an interesting panorama in which the Internet is integrated into everyday life with the classic agents of socialization (such as school, family, and friends) in different ways depending on the dialogue permitted to adolescents in other places. For interview respondents, the Internet is important because it allows them to cope with embarrassment, fear of the "firsts times" (first sexual intercourse, first kiss, etc.), curiosity, etc. The Internet, particularly social network sites, are an important part of adolescents' identity construction that with online resources try to "play" and define what Erving Goffman (1963) has called social identity and personal identity. Everything goes to a specific direction: what the girls and the boys interviewees define as "normal": a standardized idea of the gender roles and of the identity, something that "jumps" between "online" and "offline" spaces as a unique region without borders.

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