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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Tweens, teens, and digital texts : designing affinity spaces to understand cyberbullying Liu, Lesley Edana


This research explores how adolescents design, interpret, and navigate affinity spaces in connection to cyberbullying awareness. A class of Grade 8 students (aged 12-13, mixed gender, and a variety of digital skills) (n=28) participated in the study. The participants first investigated the use of affinity spaces, collaborative physical and digital spaces (Gee, 2005), then proceeded to design their own spaces for collaborative group work. A variety of data were collected in the form of peer-to-peer pre interviews, OneNote collaborative group journals, in-class observations of class work sessions, and post interviews. The methodologies used include case study, design-based research, and ethnographic techniques. This research was conducted in six stages and in a total of 15 hours; certain stages were allotted extra work sessions to accommodate the speed of the students’ progress. Stages three to five overlapped and occurred simultaneously as students designed, tried, re-examined and compared other applications, then re-evaluated their designs. The findings of this study inform how adolescents design affinity spaces (real and virtual) and emphasize design features to serve as functioning collaborative workspaces, both in and out of the classroom, to prevent or counter cyberbullying. Findings related to how students design affinity spaces for collaborative work emerged in three themes: Group Presence, Individual Digital Space, and Guidelines for Clarity. Student-informed or student-designed spaces provide a sense of ownership or and self-regulation and give insight as to how codes of conduct inform these spaces and vice versa. Future studies should adopt an iterative process of design-based research to test and refine these affinity spaces (Collins et al., 2004; Wang, Petrina, & Feng, 2015). Recommendations also include future applications of sociocultural theory and activity theory to discern how adolescents differentiate between face-to-face and online communication and practical classroom applications of affinity spaces in secondary schools.

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