Children’s discourse on development in online and offline fields: A study of positions and symbolic power

Terhi Väistö

Research output: ThesisDoctoral ThesisMonograph


Children's relationship to consumption is uneasy: children are understood of as either vulnerable and in in need of protection or as competent and agentic consumers. Childhood and consumption has most often been studied through the concept of consumer socialization. Consumer socialization relies on a developmental understanding of children that considers children as becomings rather than beings in the now. Instead of this conventional approach to the study of childhood, I take a more active view of children in this dissertation. My aim is to understand children's consumption of online games in the now, as active participants within their peer groups. I have approached this subject by using Bourdieu's field theory, which puts emphasis on positions of agents and symbolic power in relations between agents within competitive fields. This dissertation is based on data collected in both online and offline contexts. For the offline part of this study, I have conducted group interviews with children aged 10-11 in two elementary schools in Finland. Online, I did netnographic research in an online world of a game called MovieStarPlanet. I analyzed children's communication with respect to these two contexts to better understand their positions and power relations. This dissertation contributes to two streams of literature. First, it contributes to the literature on Bourdieuan fields in Consumer Culture Theory (CCT). Contributions to this literature are threefold: First, I show how within their marginalized social space children build capital within specific fields. Second, I argue that development is the part of the underlying logic behind children's experiences in these fields. Finally, I contribute to this literature by focusing on intrafield status competition and the specific positions taken discursively within a field. By considering children's peer cultures as fields, I also contribute to the childhood, and childhood and consumption literatures. I reveal how the relations between the popular and the unpopular function within and online and an offline context. I also show how, rather than merely passively going through developmental stages, children discursively "do" development in relation to capitals in fields.
Translated title of the contributionLasten diskurssi kehityksestä internetissä ja koulussa: tutkimus positioista ja symbolisesta vallasta
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor's degree
Awarding Institution
  • Aalto University
  • Martin, Diane, Thesis Advisor
Print ISBNs978-952-60-6847-3
Electronic ISBNs978-952-60-6848-0
Publication statusPublished - 2016
MoE publication typeG4 Doctoral dissertation (monograph)


  • consumer culture
  • childhood
  • consumer socialization
  • field theory

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