This research project, based in the Department of Media and Communications at the London School of Economics and Political Science, is part of the ESRC and AHRB Cultures of Consumption programme. It has a budget of £145,000 and will run for 30 months in total, ending in March 2006. Its principal focus is the relationship between consumption and citizenship, asking whether and, if so, how, people's media consumption gives them the resources to connect to wider publics.
If we are steadily learning more about the complex and varied ways in which people use the range of media (including new media) now on offer to them, we know much less about how, if at all, they connect that media consumption to their lives as citizens. In this area of uncertainty, an intellectual agenda converges with a growing policy agenda: the concerns of governments and others that people are less engaged with traditional spaces of citizenship and that, as media consumption becomes increasingly tailor-made for individuals, shared connections to public spaces through media can only decrease.
The project focuses on individuals’ own experiences of these issues. How do individuals themselves understand the relationship between their lives as media consumers and their lives as citizens? On what basis do they judge that particular consumption forms cross over from personal leisure use to public participation or action? Do they regard their current media consumption as providing them with the resources for citizenship that they feel they need?
These questions require a research approach which gives prominence to the richness of individual voices. Phase One of our research will involve inviting 30 participants to write diaries about their media consumption and its citizenship implications over a three-month period; these diaries will then be followed up by individual interviews with the diarists and focus groups involving a selection from diarists and those closely connected with them (friends, family, work and school colleagues). In Phase Two of the project a nationwide survey will be conducted, both to test the themes that have emerged in Phase one and, from the personal data collected therein, to draw wider conclusions about the changing nature of connection, citizenship and consumption in contemporary society.