Being Net Gen: Exploring the role of technology in college students' social identity enactment on campus.

  • Lohnes S
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Today's college students are considered members of the Net Gen, a group of young people who were raised in an environment in which the computer and the Internet were part of the natural backdrop of their lives. A review of the literature on 4-year universities and the interaction of university students with technology revealed a dearth of research about how students' technology use is integrated into a broader framework of practice, particularly as it relates to students' meaning making on campus. To help address this gap in the literature, this study examined the role that technology played in the lives of undergraduate college students at a mid-size public university in the Northeastern United States, with a particular focus on the ways in which the students took up technologies as they negotiated their social identities in various academic and personal contexts on campus. Located primarily within the paradigm of constructivist inquiry, the research presented in this dissertation used qualitative methods including field notes based on researcher observation; transcripts from key informant interviews; key informant technobiographies; and artifacts, including screenshots from course-related Internet sites, the university website, and student blogs and Facebook pages, where available. The analysis utilized both constant-comparative and Discourse analyses to explore the students' social identity work within the broader context of college life. The broad themes arising from the constant-comparative analysis revealed that students were selective in their technology practices and that for some participants, technology was used as a powerful tool for working around the constraints set by their academic schedules, particularly through the use of technology to socialize while in class. The Discourse analysis revealed multiple ways of being Net Gen; while technology played a significant role in the students' identification as college students, some students experienced tension in their attempts to align their personal technology practices with the dominant academic Discourse of the university. The dissertation concludes with implications for policy and research, lists this study's limitations, and provides directions for future research. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2012 APA, all rights reserved)

Author-supplied keywords

  • College Students
  • Colleges
  • Internet
  • Social Identity
  • Technology
  • college campus
  • college students
  • modernization
  • social identity
  • technology role

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  • Sarah Cressman Lohnes

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