Research project “Youth cultures as media cultures in the 21st century”

Rock ´n´ Roll, beatniks, 1960s and 1970s hippies, 1980s´ punks, 1990s techno, house and hip hop scenes, all these are classic youth cultures. At their core they were based on fashion and music and stood in opposition to mainstream ‘grown up’ culture as anti- or subcultures. They were also live cultures which were defined by the direct physical presence of members and their direct interactions. The last important examples of classic youth cultures were hip hop and techno which reached their respective pinnacles about 15 to 20 years ago. Yet, that they are now past their prime does not mean that classic youth cultures are dead. On the contrary, they age with their formerly young members and gain expression in ‘retro-waves’. This results in a mix-up and coexistence of ‘aged’ youth cultures (= patchwork cultures).


In addition the ‘event-oriented society’ with its individualization, self-orientation and multi-optionality in all areas of life and the coming of the ‘digilogue age’ have brought about new forms of media youth cultures, or rather youth media cultures. If youth cultures are still discernible and possible to systemize at all, they do not happen ‘live’ anymore. Instead, today they primarily manifest themselves in and through new media. Youth cultures seem to have become media cultures. In theory everybody can participate in these new media cultures, irrespective of age, as long as he understands the respective communicative codes, because they tend to form virtually in online communities. These youth or media cultures do not form around such factors as fashion or music anymore but around different topics or special interests.


How do these new youth or young adult media cultures look like? Which topics do they center on? Which values and attitudes are important? How does ‘digital socializing’ impact on the ‘social self’? What does the traditional notion of friendship mean in these contexts?


Proceeding from established research analyses on youth culture and media use, this research project aims to develop systematic, typological qualitative research on media cultures. This project aims to make a contribution to community research in the tradition of qualitative media and cultural studies based on media convergence and the integration of media into everyday routines. The project is intended as the foundation of a more general study of “youth cultures as media cultures.”


As part of the project BMPS cooperates with the online networking sites MySpace, studiVZ and schülerVZ. We conducted focus groups with heavy users of MySpace (aged 20 to 29) and schülerVZ (aged 14 to 19). Subsequently we conducted a large scale online survey on all three networks. The resulting data is currently being analyzed.