Over the past two decades, the rapid development and diversification of new media technologies, such as mobile phones, personal computers, and the internet, have fundamentally changed social interactions. While there has been social concern over how young people use new media technologies within their love/sex relationships, social research has only recently begun to explore this trend. This research aimed to investigate how the Foucauldian philosophy of ‘ethics of the self’ can be applied to the lived realities of young people’s negotiation of their love/sex relationships within new media environments. Through the perceptions, stories, and experiences of forty young people (aged 18-25) with diverse sexual and relationship experience, the use of new media technologies to negotiate initiating, being in, and ending their romantic and sexual relationships were explored. Additionally, the ways in which these young people accommodated and resisted dominant discourses of gender and sexuality as they constructed themselves as sexual subjects were considered. Data were collected in two phases: an online discussion board with twenty-eight young people (15 women, 13 men) from across Australia and individual in-person interviews with twelve young people (6 women, 6 men) living in Melbourne, Australia. Developmental vignettes were used in both phases of data collection to facilitate the exploration of young people’s negotiation of a sexual encounter. By considering young people’s experiences through the lens of Foucauldian ethics of the self, this research sheds light on the complex ways young people construct themselves as subjects of discourse – sometimes conforming to and sometimes resisting the ‘truth claims’ of the discourses they are subject to. As new media technologies are constantly shifting, this research focuses on the strategic ways in which young people use new media technologies – as opposed to the specific technology they used – and provides a snapshot of a particular moment in time.
Submission note: A thesis submitted in total fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy [to the] Australian Research Centre in Sex, Health and Society, School of Public Health, Faculty of Health Science, La Trobe University, Bundoora.
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