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Abstract»

Emma-Reetta Koivunen (2006): "Ulan Bator - Doncaster, what's the difference!". Meaning creation and the internet in an island community.

MA Thesis, Department of Social and Cultural Anthropology, University of Helsinki.


The thesis analyses the use of the internet in a Shetland Island community, Fair Isle. The aim of the study is to analyse the relation between the local community and the internet technology. The thesis looks at the process of creating meanings to the internet by the members of the community, starting from the notion by Cohen (1985:17) that the interpretations people assign to phenomena are not random, but related to the characteristics of a society. The community studied is geographically remote and demographically small. The thesis explores whether the use of the internet and its incorporation into daily life has changed the way the islanders define their community.

The methodology used to fulfil these aims comprised of semistructured interviews of 12 people, participant observation of the community life, and a household survey in all the households in the island. In addition to this, the research included two types of comparison. One to other similar communities (Cohen 1987; Parman 1990; Macdonald 1997), and the other to studies of internet use (e.g. Miller & Slater 2000; Christensen 2003; Hynes 2005).

The thesis found that internet use in the community is very popular, 77 per cent of households have an internet access. The role of a cultural logic and other characteristics of the community in the process of understanding the internet were defined. For example kin relations and the absence of teenagers attending to high school have influenced the ways the technology is understood and used. Showing these aspects and their influence does not mean that the islanders would behave in a uniform way, but the construction of meanings to new technologies combines cultural knowledge and empirical encounters (see, e.g. Urban 1996). More than that, the thesis showed how the use of the internet has been incorporated into the understanding of local community, without changing the experience of living in a remote community. This does not mean that the internet would not have made certain everyday life matters easier.

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