In order to understand how family life is being transformed by technological innovation and big data we have much to gain if we consider two different cultural contexts. This project focuses on families in the U.K. and the U.S. A cross-cultural comparison between U.K. and U.S. contexts can enable us to shed light not only on how big data and digital surveillance are being negotiated within both countries but also on the fact that the use of the same digital technologies is often defined by completely different cultural understandings of online privacy and digital citizenship.
Therefore, the researcher is working with families living in London and Los Angeles, come from different national, ethnic, class and gender backgrounds but all with children aged between 0 and 13. The two cities have been chosen because of their cultural difference and because they are multicultural and technological centres, where the researchers will have access to families from different ethnic backgrounds and nationalities. Families are selected randomly. The research involves the following methods:
50 in-depth qualitative semi-structured interviews. The interviews address the following dimensions: 1) biographical experience of technological change and the datafication of everyday life (life narrative method) 2) description of the family’s digital routine during an average non-working day 3) description of the children’s personal data traces produced by the family 4) understandings of online privacy, big data and artificial intelligence 5) imaginations of the future.
Ethnographic research: As ethnographer, I have lived and will be living in both London and Los Angeles for more than a year, carrying out participant observation and documenting and analysing the impact of datafication and home automation on my family life. I will also carry out research with 8 families. This includes 1) participant observation and interviews 2) digital ethnography. This involves 9 months of online participant observation on the parents’ social media and the investigation of the relationship between social media narratives and digital profiling 3) participatory exercises such as the mapping of apps mobile phones (e.g. mobile apps, and private social media like WhatsApp) and self-interviews.
Platform Analysis – Qualitative textual analysis of the ‘Terms and Conditions’ and Promotional Cultures a) 10 early infancy mobile apps and websites b) 4 main social media platforms used by parents (Facebook, Twitter, Istagram, Youtube) c) 4 AI devices and Home automation hubs (Echo, Amazon; HomeKit, Apple; Nest, Alphabet Inc/Google; SmartThings, Samsung) d) 2 AI Toys (Hello Barbie; Cozmo). More toys will be addded to the analysis depending on use from participants.
2 Focus Groups. The focus groups will involve the participation of 5-8 parents, and participants will be asked to engage in different participatory exercise, as well as to produce visual maps of their understanding of data flows and digital profiling.