A PHENOMENOLOGICAL INVESTIGATIO N OF ADOLESCENTSâ€™ EXPERIENCES OF EDUCATIONAL USES OF COMPUTERS AT INTERNET CAFS By SEBNEM CILESIZ A DISSERTATION PRESENTED TO THE GRADUATE SCHOOL OF THE UNIVERSITY OF FLOR IDA IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA 2006
Copyright 2006 By Sebnem Cilesiz
This dissertation is dedicated to my adolescent sister, Seyran.
ACKNOWLEDGMENTS I thank the members of my supervisory committee for their extensive support of my work on this dissertation. I thank Dr. Nihal Tumer Scarpace for her kind support in preparing the bilingual IRB documents, Mr. Ugur Baslanti for his thoughtful peer reviews, and Dr. Thomas Greckhamer for his thorough reviews and intellectual contribution to all stages of this study. iv
TABLE OF CONTENTS page ACKNOWLEDGMENTS.................................................................................................iv TABLE...............................................................................................................................ix ABSTRACT.........................................................................................................................x CHAPTER 1 INTRODUCTION........................................................................................................1 Background...................................................................................................................1 The Pilot Study.............................................................................................................2 Overview of the Pilot Study..................................................................................2 Implications of the Pilot Study on the Design of the Principal Study...................3 The phenomenon and research questions.......................................................3 Participant selection.......................................................................................4 The Purpose of the Study..............................................................................................5 Definitions....................................................................................................................5 Internet Caf..........................................................................................................5 Balikesir, Turkey...................................................................................................6 Education...............................................................................................................6 Educational Uses of Computers............................................................................7 Phenomenon..........................................................................................................9 Experience.............................................................................................................9 Essence................................................................................................................10 Intentionality........................................................................................................10 Co-researcher.......................................................................................................11 Significance of the Study............................................................................................11 Overview of the Study................................................................................................14 2 LITERATURE REVIEW...........................................................................................15 Childrenâ€™s and Adolescentsâ€™ Computer Use...............................................................15 The Digital Divide......................................................................................................20 The State of Instructional Technology in Turkey.......................................................24 Public Computer Access.............................................................................................25 Informal Learning Environments...............................................................................26 The Role of Computers in Informal and Lifelong Learning.......................................29 Internet Cafs and Internet Cafs in Turkey...............................................................30 The Regulation of Internet Cafs as Informal Learning Environments.....................32 v
Summary.....................................................................................................................33 3 METHODOLOGY.....................................................................................................35 Historical Origins of Phenomenology........................................................................36 Transcendental Phenomenology..........................................................................36 Existential Phenomenology.................................................................................37 Key Concepts of Phenomenology..............................................................................38 Epoche.................................................................................................................38 Intentionality........................................................................................................38 Noema and Noesis...............................................................................................39 The Application of Husserlâ€™s Transcendental Phenomenology to This Study...........40 Context of the Study...................................................................................................42 Turkey..................................................................................................................42 Balikesir...............................................................................................................44 Internet Cafs in Turkey......................................................................................45 Subjectivity Statement................................................................................................45 Methods......................................................................................................................47 Selection of Participants......................................................................................47 IRB Procedures....................................................................................................48 Participants..........................................................................................................49 Data Collection....................................................................................................50 Data Analysis.......................................................................................................53 Phenomenological reduction........................................................................54 Imaginative variation....................................................................................56 Synthesis.......................................................................................................57 Validity Considerations..............................................................................................58 Phenomenological Validation.............................................................................58 Additional Measures............................................................................................60 Limitations..................................................................................................................61 Methodological Limitations................................................................................61 Data collection..............................................................................................61 Data analysis................................................................................................62 The Researcherâ€™s Subjectivity.............................................................................62 Limitations of the Research Context...................................................................63 4 RESULTS...................................................................................................................64 Textural Description of Mehmetâ€™s Experiences.........................................................65 Structural Description of Mehmetâ€™s Experiences.......................................................69 Textural Description of Emirâ€™s Experiences..............................................................71 Structural Description of Emirâ€™s Experiences............................................................75 Textural Description of Aylinâ€™s Experiences.............................................................78 Structural Description of Aylinâ€™s Experiences...........................................................80 Composite Textural Description.................................................................................82 Composite Structural Description and the Essence of the Experience.......................86 Advancement toward Educational Uses..............................................................87 vi
Knowledge as Source of Self-Confidence...........................................................87 Self-Control of Learning.....................................................................................88 Educational Uses as Lifestyle..............................................................................89 The Essence of the Experience............................................................................89 Variation in Participantsâ€™ Experiences.......................................................................90 Summary.....................................................................................................................91 5 DISCUSSION.............................................................................................................92 Implications................................................................................................................94 Benefits of Using Internet Cafs.........................................................................94 Potentially facilitating transfer by providing a familiar atmosphere............94 Supporting the advancement of computer use.............................................95 Initiating lifelong learning............................................................................97 Promoting motivation to learn......................................................................98 Fostering adolescent development.............................................................100 Concerns Regarding Adolescentsâ€™ Uses of Internet Cafs................................102 Being locally limited..................................................................................102 Leading to misconceptions about reality and knowledge..........................103 Enabling access to undesirable content......................................................104 Fostering knowledge of questionable nature..............................................104 Suggestions for Future Research.......................................................................105 Factors that might facilitate educational uses of computers......................105 Nature of knowledge gained through search engines.................................106 Lack of motivation in school......................................................................107 Conclusions and Significance of the Study..............................................................108 APPENDIX A PARTICIPANT BACKGROUND SURVEY..........................................................111 B INTERVIEW GUIDES............................................................................................112 Interview 1................................................................................................................112 Interview 2................................................................................................................112 Interview 3................................................................................................................113 C MEANING UNITS...................................................................................................114 List of Meaning Units...............................................................................................114 D THE PILOT STUDY................................................................................................116 Background...............................................................................................................116 Setting.......................................................................................................................116 Participants...............................................................................................................117 Participant 1.......................................................................................................117 Participant 2.......................................................................................................118 vii
Participant 3.......................................................................................................118 Data Collection.........................................................................................................119 Validity.....................................................................................................................121 Ethical Considerations..............................................................................................121 Data Analysis............................................................................................................122 Results.......................................................................................................................125 Themes of Meaning Units.................................................................................125 Textural Description of Ahmetâ€™s Experiences..................................................126 Structural Description of Ahmetâ€™s Experiences................................................127 Structural Description of Burakâ€™s Experiences.................................................128 Textural-Structural Description of Cenkâ€™s Experiences....................................129 Composite Textural Description........................................................................130 Composite Structural Description.....................................................................131 Textural-Structural Synthesis............................................................................132 Limitations................................................................................................................133 Discussion.................................................................................................................134 Implications for the Dissertation Study....................................................................137 LIST OF REFERENCES.................................................................................................138 BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH...........................................................................................146 viii
TABLE Table page 1: Meaning units, essence, and implications....................................................................115 ix
Abstract of Dissertation Presented to the Graduate School of the University of Florida in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy A PHENOMENOLOGICAL INVESTIGATION OF ADOLESCENTSâ€™ EXPERIENCES OF EDUCATIONAL USES OF COMPUTERS AT INTERNET CAFS By Sebnem Cilesiz May 2006 Chair: Kara Dawson Cochair: Mirka Koro-Ljungberg Major Department: Teaching and Learning This study investigates the experiences of adolescents who use computers educationally at Internet cafs. Due to the increasing popularity of Internet cafs among adolescents and the fact that they have the resources that are scarce in public education in Turkey, the potential of Internet cafs as informal learning environments is worthy of investigation. This study, with a phenomenological framework, uses phenomenal data analysis to analyze multiple in-depth phenomenological interviews with individual adolescents to reach the essence of the experience of educational uses of computers at Internet cafs. The findings have implications for educators, public education and private enterprise collaboration, and for future research. x
CHAPTER 1 INTRODUCTION Background Four years ago, I was on summer vacation in a town on the west coast of Turkey, where many people from the region gather to spend the summer. The town had a few Internet cafs, one of which I went to daily to check my email. Since Internet cafs were very popular, particularly among adolescents who often came in groups, sometimes I had to wait in line to use a computer. During those waiting times I would observe adolescentsâ€™ behaviors and their interactions with the computers as well as with each other. In one instance, two young males occupied a computer each and began to play a soccer game over the Internet. They were hitting the keys in great excitement and passion, playing soccer with each other, over the Internet, in the same room. I did not understand why they played a computer simulation of soccer at an Internet caf and paid for it, given that the weather was very nice and there were facilities to play soccer outside. Why could those adolescents have chosen to be inside a building, in front of a computer screen, paying for their time, after waiting in line to get a computer when they could have gone to the beach across the street to swim, to play soccer or other games? I wanted to understand the reality inside the Internet caf, the reality from a perspective I was not able to see. I wanted to understand the adolescentsâ€™ reality, their experiences, and the meaning those experiences carried for those adolescents. Thus, I embarked on this study. 1
2 The Pilot Study An overview of the pilot study, which was used to shape the principal study, is presented here. The implications of the pilot study on the design of the principal study follow. Appendix D includes the complete report of the pilot study. Overview of the Pilot Study When my interest in adolescents and Internet cafs evolved into an academic research venue, I decided to conduct a pilot study to help me gain perspective. The pilot study led to a more refined study on the educational dimension of computer use at Internet cafs. The pilot study was conducted in the summer of 2003 in Balikesir, a city in the western region of Turkey. The purpose of the pilot study was to understand the experiences of adolescents who use Internet cafs. Phenomenology was chosen as the theoretical perspective because it focuses on the experiences of individuals and the meaning of these experiences from their own perspectives and because it was consistent with the research questions of the pilot study. The research questions that guided the pilot study were What are the experiences of adolescent users of Internet cafs in Balikesir, Turkey? What is the meaning of using Internet cafs for adolescents in Balikesir, Turkey? Participants were 3 males of ages 15, 17, and 18. They were recruited on a first come basis among those who contacted me in response to the posted announcement volunteering to participate in the study. Three in-depth phenomenological interviews were conducted with each participant except with the first participant, who missed his last appointment for an interview. The first two interviews were semi-structured and the last one was an unstructured session for reflection and feedback.
3 The interviews were conducted in Turkish and were audio recorded. The interviews were then transcribed and analyzed using Moustakasâ€™ (1994) methods of Phenomenal Data Analysis. The themes that were common to all participantsâ€™ experiences were (1) the influence of friends on the habit of using Internet cafs, (2) the Internet caf as a social experience, (3) the joy of sharing the experiences with friends, and (4) the Internet caf as a means to build and maintain relationships. These themes were combined under the theme cluster â€œInternet caf as a social phenomenon.â€ Even though at the individual level of experiences other themes emerged as well, socialization was the only essence of the experience of using Internet cafs. For example, learning to use computers appeared at different points in the data but it was not an essence of the experience. Essence is described by Moustakas (1994) as â€œthat which is common or universal, the condition or quality without which a thing would not be what it isâ€ (Moustakas, 1994, p. 100). Implications of the Pilot Study on the Design of the Principal Study The outcomes of the pilot study including the methodological implications and findings, informed the design of the principal study in several ways. The details follow below. The phenomenon and research questions One of the most important implications of the pilot study was related to the finding that educational uses of computers or learning with computers were not essential elements of the experience of using Internet cafs. As education was not found to be an essence of the experience of the participants in the pilot study, I could not assume that it is a universal essence of the Internet caf experience. Thus, based on the pilot study findings, I had to revisit my initial assumption. In addition, I made a decision to reformulate the phenomenon and research questions such that they contribute more
4 directly to the field of educational technology; I decided to focus my research on the educational experiences of using computers at Internet cafs. As a result, I defined the phenomenon for this dissertation study to be â€œadolescentsâ€™ educational uses of computers at Internet cafs.â€ The framework remained phenomenology, but the research questions were reformulated. Participant selection For the pilot study, I selected any participant who attended Internet cafs regularly and volunteered to participate in the study. Furthermore, the pilot study revealed that neither education nor learning was an essence of the experience of using Internet cafs. However, since this dissertation is motivated by my own interests in research in education as well as due to institutional forces â€“ the present dissertation is written in partial fulfillment of the requirements of a degree in education â€“ I aimed to ensure that education would be an essential part of the phenomenon studied. Therefore, I reformulated the phenomenon for the principal study and changed the criteria for the selection of participants in order to match the participants with the phenomenon being studied. For the principal study having experiences of educational uses of computers at Internet cafs was an additional criterion for participant selection. Hence, I only selected participants who used computers educationally. Detailed criteria and the operational definition of educational uses of computers are described below in the Definitions section. Also, the pilot study had only male participants when gender was not used as a criterion for selection. Even though this fact reflects the low participation at Internet cafs by females in Turkey (Bolukbas & Yildiz, 2003; Kuloglu, 2001), the unintended exclusion of females may be a drawback of the study by changing the focus to malesâ€™
5 experiences. Therefore, a conscious effort was made to include female participants in the principal study. (See Participant Selection in Chapter 3 for details.) The Purpose of the Study The purpose of this study was to understand and unveil the experiences of adolescents who use computers educationally regularly at Internet cafs in Turkey. This qualitative study describes the essences and meanings of adolescentsâ€™ experiences from their perspectives. The following research questions guided the study How do adolescents describe their experiences of educational uses of computers at Internet cafs? How do adolescents interpret their experiences of educational uses of computers at Internet cafs? Definitions Some of the terms used in this study are defined below. These terms used throughout this dissertation should be understood in the meaning provided in this section. Internet Caf Internet cafs (also referred to as â€œcybercafsâ€) are private businesses that offer temporary computer and Internet access services to the public for time-based fees. The defining characteristic of Internet cafs is that they have a number of Internet capable computers, with desks and chairs arranged into a caf-like environment. Although their name is associated with the Internet, some of them offer other services beyond Internet access such as a variety of software programs, games, printing, and image editing. It is also not uncommon for Internet cafs to have a separate caf section with tables where food and drinks are served, where people can talk or read. Yet others offer courses from basic computer literacy to advanced applications.
6 Balikesir, Turkey Turkey is a county located in Southeast Europe and Southwest Asia with a population of 68 million (Turkey State Statistics Institute, 2005). Balikesir is one of the 81 provinces in Turkey. Balikesir is also the name of the capital city in the province of Balikesir. The city of Balikesir has a population of 246,000 (Balikesir Official Site, 2005). Throughout the study, â€œBalikesirâ€ will refer to the city of Balikesir. Education The meaning of education is taken broadly in this study. Based on Deweyâ€™s work, I conceptualize education as educative experience that involves intellectual and moral growth, interaction, and continuity (lifelong learning) (Dewey, 1938). Thus, educational experiences include learning content, school subjects, facts, skills, attitudes, and values as well learning technology skills (i.e., computer literacy). In addition, it refers to a combination of formal education and informal education. Formal education is defined by Smith as â€œthe hierarchically structured, chronologically graded â€˜education systemâ€™, running from primary school through the university and including, in addition to general academic studies, a variety of specialized programmes and institutions for full-time technical and professional trainingâ€ (Smith, 1988, p. 125). Informal education is defined by the same author as â€œthe truly lifelong process whereby every individual acquires attitudes, values, skills and knowledge from daily experience and the educative influences and resources in his or her environment â€“ from family and neighbours, from work and play, from the marketplace, the library, and the mass mediaâ€ (Smith, 1988, p. 125).
7 Educational Uses of Computers Deriving from the definition of education above, I have developed a definition of educational uses of computers. Even though a phenomenological framework dictates that the researcher not provide any definitions for the participants, this operational definition was needed to select suitable participants for the study. Once a volunteer was selected as a participant in the study, his/her definition was used to refer to educational experiences throughout data collection; no guidance was given. However, the mere statement by a volunteer that he/she is engaged in educational uses did not suffice to be a criterion for participant selection unless it was supported by the operational definition. I have derived a list of computer applications and uses of computers from the International Society for Technology in Educationâ€™s (ISTE) National Educational Technology Standards for Students (NETS-S) and performance indicators related to those standards. These applications were referred to when screening and selecting participants in the study. NETS-S is a comprehensive and thus appropriate resource to identify educationally beneficial applications for adolescents, because â€œthe standards and performance indicators are based on input and feedback from educational technology experts as well as parents, teachers, and curriculum experts. In addition, they reflect information collected from professional literature and local, state, and national documentsâ€ (ISTE, 2000, p. 16). The goals of these standards include for students to â€œachieve success in learning, communication, and life skillsâ€ and to develop â€œpositive attitudes toward technology uses that support lifelong learning, collaboration, personal pursuits, and productivityâ€ (ISTE, 2000, p. 14). Clearly, these skills cover formal and informal education as well as content and technical skills learning. Given that Turkish
8 adolescents have less access to computers at home or school than their American peers,1 all of the applications and skills in the NETS-S regardless of their target age range would be relevant and desirable for Turkish adolescents to acquire. Thus, all standards for grades PreK-12 in NETS-S were used to create the list for high school-age participants in this study. The list of educational uses of computers that was used as a guide to select participants is below: Use communication tools such as email, chat rooms, and online discussions; other web environments and community building tools to gather information, communicate with peers and experts, or pursue personal interests Create and publish work in word processors or presentation tools such as slide shows Process information using spreadsheets and databases Create and publish web pages Create multimedia products Use multimedia resources, content-specific tools, educational software such as drill and practice, simulations, tutorials, expert systems, intelligent agents Use puzzles, logical thinking programs, drawing tools such as concept mapping software for problem solving, decision making, and illustration of ideas Search for and gather information from the World Wide Web Solve hardware and software problems that occur during daily use and do maintenance of computers Use electronic calendars, address books, and other forms of information management Engage in formal distance or distributed education. Although it can be argued that this inclusive list covers all uses of computers, not every use of computers constitutes an educational use, hence the attempt for an 1 The number of personal computers per 1000 people was 33.8 in Turkey and 510.5 in the USA per 2001 World Development Indicators reports.
9 operational definition. The present study is built upon the premise that educational uses should be purposeful and meaningful. Merely spending time at a computer with no attempt for or byproduct of learning would not be an educational use of the computer. For example, looking at pornographic pictures (apart from being considered educationally undesirable and culturally unacceptable) for the purpose of seeing them is a non-educational use of computers. Another example of non-educational use is playing computer games that merely require and develop reaction times (i.e., the ability to click fast). Phenomenon According to Moustakas, the word phenomenon comes from the Greek word â€œphaenesthai, to flare up, to show itself, to appearâ€ (Moustakas, 1994, p. 26). According to Heidegger, phenomenon is â€œthe totality of what lies before us in the light of dayâ€ (Heidegger cited in Moustakas, 1994, p. 26). In other words, a phenomenon is conscious subjectsâ€™ perception of reality. Moustakas refers to phenomena as the building blocks of human science and the basis for all knowledge. Experience Husserl refers to experience as the German Erfahrung rather than Erlebnis. Erfahrung means â€œthe full-fledged experience or act of consciousness in which something real is given to consciousness as what it genuinely isâ€ (Kockelmans, 1994, p. 82). From the point of view of transcendental phenomenology, all experience is intentional experience (Kockelmans, 1994; Moustakas, 1994). In intentional experience the act and the object of consciousness are interrelated. In other words every experience is a subjectâ€™s perception of an object.
10 Essence Essence is â€œthat which is common or universal, the condition or quality without which a thing would not be what it isâ€ (Moustakas, 1994, p. 100). The essence of an experience is the focus of phenomenological research; uncovering the essence of an experience is the purpose. However, not the essence but only its manifestations can be found. The textural-structural synthesis, the last step of phenomenological analysis, represents the essences at a specific time and place, from the perspective of an individual researcher. Intentionality Intentionality refers to the essential relationship between objects and subjects. Intentionality, called â€œbeing directed-atâ€ (Kockelmans, 1994, p. 80), comes from the word â€œintendâ€ and refers to whether or not a subject intends toward an object. For example, a social constructionist framework also maintains that there is intentionality; i.e., meanings arise out of the interrelation between an object and a subject. Phenomenologyâ€™s perception of reality is based on the ideal-material duality. Ideas and things are separate; however, they interact. And meanings derive from the interrelation of the ideal and the material. Phenomenologists subscribe to the concept of intentionality, the essential relationship between a conscious subject and an object. From a phenomenological perspective, all experience is intentional experience (Kockelmans, 1994; Moustakas, 1994). Consciousness is always the consciousness of an object, perception is always the perception of an object, and the consciousness of an object requires a subject.
11 Co-researcher Moustakas (1994) refers to all participants of phenomenological research as co-researchers. Participants are co-researchers in the study because their perceptions and experiences are the focus of the study, their narratives provide reality, and the researcher is not supposed to include his/her subjectivity in the study. Rather, he/she should clarify any interpretation with the participants (co-researchers) in the study. The researcher should make the co-researchers aware of their status and role, inform them of the purposes and questions of the study, and ask them to seek answers to the research questions based on their experiences. The concept of co-researcher in phenomenology does not require the participants to be engaged and invested in the study as much as the researcher does. However, some degree of involvement and interest is expected since phenomenology investigates meaningful experiences and feelings. Significance of the Study The benefits of computer use and Internet access in daily life and the role of computers and the Internet in enabling the social inclusion of disadvantaged groups have made computer access for everyone a compulsory goal for a properly functioning society (Katz & Rice, 2002; Norris, 2001; Riel, 2000; Warschauer, 2002, 2003a). However, there are many people without computer access, and many more not using computers in ways that will emancipate them (Mossberger, Tolbert, & Stansbury, 2003; Riel, 2000). The gaps between computer use among social groups in many countries have been pointed out by educators, administrators, and researchers alike (Aichholzer & Schmutzer, 2000; NTIA, 1995, 1998, 1999, 2000; Warschauer, 2003b, 2003c). This issue is more prevalent in developing countries as they have significantly fewer personal computers relative to
12 their population (Driori & Jang, 2003; Murelli & Okot-Uma, 2002; Warschauer, 2003b; World Development Indicators, 2001). The availability of public computers that enable adolescents to access computers and the Internet alleviates the problem of the digital divide to some extent. Those who cannot own a computer can still have sustained computer use at public access points. The alternatives to computer ownership include school computer labs, public library computers, community technology centers (Goslee, 1998), community resource centers (Uotinen, 2003), Nordic telecottages (Laegran & Stewart, 2003), and Internet cafs (The Cybercafe Search Engine, 2004). In 1999, the number of personal computers per 1000 people in Turkey was 33.8 (approximately 3.4%), while the same statistic was 510.5 in the USA. The fact that owning a personal computer is not an option for many adolescents makes public access places a popular resort. Access in school may not be a viable alternative. As in the case of Egypt (Warschauer, 2003b) access to school computers may be restricted to computer class hours. Outside use may not be allowed or be limited due to the scarcity of resources. Indeed, Tor and Erden (2004) found, in their study of computer use in Turkey, that 21 % of adolescents use computers at Internet cafs, whereas 14 % use them at schools. None of the other alternatives listed are available in Turkey. Indeed, the number and the ongoing popularity of Internet cafs among adolescents make them phenomenal. On the other hand, the government takes a strict attitude toward childrenâ€™s and adolescentsâ€™ computer use at Internet cafs. It tends to regulate Internet cafs tightly in order to protect children from any possible harms of using the Internet with little or no adult supervision. In fact, the Ministry of Communications founded an Internet
13 Committee (IC) in order to establish rules that would govern Internet cafs and regulate childrenâ€™s access to and activities at Internet cafs (Internet Committee, 2003). For example operation of Internet cafs within close proximity to schools is not permitted. Also, the local police conduct controls and raids at Internet cafs (Moore, 2001). In response to the regulations, Internet caf owners/managers in Turkey formed a union called Turkiye Internet Evleri Dernegi [Turkey Internet Houses Association (TIHA)] in order to be able to take part in the establishment of rules and policies that affect their businesses (TIHA, 2003).Currently the two organizations are working together to determine a direction for Internet cafs in Turkey. However, the decisions that are made at the administrative level are not necessarily informed by empirical research findings. Indeed, there is little research on Internet cafs in general (Laegran & Stewart, 2003; Liff & Laegran, 2003; Liff & Steward, 2003; Uotinen, 2003; Wakeford, 2003) and on Internet cafs in Turkey in particular (Bolukbas, 2003; Bolukbas & Yildiz, 2003; Golge & Arli, 2003; Kuloglu, 2001; Yildiz, 2003; Yildiz & Bolukbas, 2003). Moreover, the existing research does not address adolescentsâ€™ experiences of educational uses of computers at Internet cafs. Without the knowledge of the adolescentsâ€™ first hand experiences and their perspectives on educational uses of computers at Internet cafs, it may not be possible to put sound rules in place. Furthermore, this knowledge is needed if educators and responsible administrators would like to benefit from the existing infrastructure of Internet cafs as potentially educational venues. This study aims to understand adolescentsâ€™ lived experiences and the meaning of those experiences from their perspectives. The findings from this study could inform local and government administrators, and the aforementioned committee and union
14 members who make policy decisions as to what the status of Internet cafs in adolescentsâ€™ informal education and personal development is their very focus of concern. The results of the study can provide new perspectives and contribute to the body of knowledge regarding adolescentsâ€™ education and Internet cafs decision makers could use. The results of the study may also provide perspectives that may enlighten the development of public educational programs on computer use and the development of other computer/Internet access points such as community technology centers, public libraries, and school computer labs. Overview of the Study This study is a phenomenological investigation of adolescentsâ€™ experiences of educational uses of computers at Internet cafs. The following chapters will include a review of the literature, description of the methods (including participants, data collection and data analysis), presentation of the results, and discussion. The complete report of the pilot study can be found in Appendix D.
CHAPTER 2 LITERATURE REVIEW In this chapter, I review the research relevant to this study in the areas of childrenâ€™s computer use, digital divide, public computer access, informal learning environments, the state of instructional technology in Turkey, Internet cafs in general and Internet cafs in Turkey in particular, and the regulation of Internet cafs as informal learning environments, both in the field of educational technology and its wider debates. This review will demonstrate the importance of the research questions pursued with the present study. This literature also informed the design of this study and the interpretation of its findings. Childrenâ€™s and Adolescentsâ€™ Computer Use The present study is fundamentally related to several central debates in the field of Educational Technology, including the discussion as to whether or not it is valuable and beneficial for children and adolescents to use computers, when they should start to use computers, how much they should use them, and for which sets of activities they should use them. Defining adolescents as a subgroup of children, I will refer to adolescents and children collectively as children in the rest of this section. NCES (National Council for Education Statistics) data indicate that over 90 % of teens in the USA use computers, with a large portion of those also using the Internet (DeBell & Chapman, 2003). However, despite the growing popularity of the Internet among adolescents, there is little research on how adolescents use the Internet a few notable studies being the exceptions (Greenfield, Gross, Subrahmanyam, Suzuki, & 15
16 Tynes, in press; Livingstone, 2003). Most of the research in the area of childrenâ€™s and adolescentsâ€™ uses of computers focuses on the benefits and risks of computer use by children and/or adolescents. In general terms, the contributions regarding whether or not it is beneficial for children to use computers can be grouped into proponents and opponents of the use of computers by children. Those advocating childrenâ€™s use of computers suggest that computers can help the development of children in positive ways and that they need to gain the skills needed in modern societies early on in their lives. For example, Bruckman (1997) demonstrates how a Multi User Domain can help young children to develop reading and writing skills by utilizing creative writing embedded in role playing activities. Turkle (1984; 1997) demonstrates how computers help young childrenâ€™s development of psychological reasoning and â€œa feeling of control over challengeâ€, as well as adolescentsâ€™ development of their identity (Turkle, 1984, p. 92). Papert (1993) argues that children are able to actively build their own intellectual structures and think about their own thinking with the help of computers. Gordon (2001) argues that computers, like books, are among the tools that provide exciting ways and opportunities for children to learn, and that therefore their use should be supported. Daley, Irving, and McGuire-Rivera (2001) give examples from 11 projects to argue that emerging information technologies can change childrenâ€™s lives for the better. Subrahmanyam, Greenfield, Kraut, & Gross (2001) find that computer use among adolescents contributes to their spatial skills, iconic skills, and visual attention. Cradler and colleagues (Cradler, 1994; Cradler & Bridgforth, 1996) report that technology improves attitude and confidence, especially for at-risk students, and improves writing and problem solving skills. Moreover, according to Henderson,
17 Zimbardo, and Graham (2005) participating in online communication activities improves social activities in the real lives of adolescents, enhancing their social lives. Even though, according to Subrahmanyam and colleagues (2001), there is contradicting evidence regarding the impact of computer use on adolescentsâ€™ social involvement and psychological well-being. This conclusion is supported by Gross (2004), who does not find any evidence of associations between Internet use and well-being. In addition to the popular use of the Internet by adolescents, according to NCES data, the most common uses of computers by adolescents are playing games and doing schoolwork (DeBell & Chapman, 2003). While it could be argued that there is no guarantee that doing schoolwork on the computer has benefits for formal education, some research indicates an association between computer use and academic achievement (Subrahmanyam et al., 2001). Thus, the advocates of computer use by children emphasize that, in addition to benefiting and supporting academic work, computers can be used by adolescents in many ways that are beneficial to them, or support their development and education. Farmer (2005) cites the following as benefits of using computers for adolescents â€“ particularly those who are â€œon the fringes of society: physically, educationally, economically, and politicallyâ€ (Farmer, 2005, p. 67). These benefits include information and assistance about news, weather, people, transportation, jobs, education, health, parenting, social services, immigration and citizenship, consumerism, politics; expert help for homework, need for language translation, legal issues; financial advice for record-keeping, banking, scholarships, job leads, comparison shopping; social and career issues; networking; communications vehicle using a variety of formats (particularly attractive to immigrants who want to keep in touch with their homeland at
18 little cost); creation and production tools; entertainment: sports, music, video, anime, writing, images; assistance and compensatory tools for the physically challenged; and technical skills to aid in all the above. Advocates of computer use also emphasize the benefits that adolescentsâ€™ computer use can have in school settings, if properly guided. The literature indicates that some ways of using technology in the classroom are more conducive to increasing student motivation. Sandholtz, Ringstaff, and Dwyer (1997) list these cases as: where computers are used as one of the several tools, where computers are a vehicle to achieve another curricular goal as opposed to being the goal itself, where tool applications that allow exploration are emphasized rather than packages such as drill and practice tools, where individualsâ€™ interests and abilities are taken into consideration, where students are given responsibility, and where disciplinary and unit boundaries are not rigid. Becker (2000) finds that students are more engaged to use computers for schoolwork (even outside of classtime) when they are asked to present information to an audience and who are given frequent opportunities to work with presentation software, email, multimedia authoring programs, and word processors. Those who are critical of childrenâ€™s use of computers point to the possible harms of using computers and the Internet, while they also see computers as replacing some of the activities children are supposed to engage in as they grow up. For example Cordes and Miller (2000), in â€œFoolâ€™s Goldâ€, point to the dangers of developmental risks and hazards jeopardizing childrenâ€™s physical health, social development, their need for moral and emotional development, human relationships, and neglecting much needed physical activities such as free play. Likewise, Healy (1999), while acknowledging the benefits of
19 computers for children, points to the harms of early computer use by focusing on what computers replace financially, developmentally, and emotionally in childrenâ€™s lives. Finally, Lieser (1998) focuses on the importance of unstructured play for children that seems to be replaced by computers, and she argues that computers are â€œdeleting childhood.â€ One of the potential harms of adolescentsâ€™ and childrenâ€™s playing games on the computer is that they may model the violence present in many games. Subrahmanyam and colleagues (2001) indicate that 80 % of computer games include violence, and caution that excessive involvement with violent games may cause aggression on the part of adolescents. Nevertheless, Gee (2003) emphasizes the potential benefits of video games such as problem solving, understanding and processing visual and iconic cues, making meaning, and picking role models. Another risk for adolescents is argued to be the possibility of contact with harmful people or dangerous ideas such as suicidal thoughts. However, Gross (2004) finds that to the contrary of common belief, which was based on early research on adolescentsâ€™ Internet use, adolescentsâ€™ interactions on the Internet consist primarily of exchanges with individuals who are also their friends offline, involving conversations about ordinary topics such as gossip about a common friend. Yet another risk highlighted is adolescentsâ€™ acting out multiple identities on the Internet leading to concerns about their development (Subrahmanyam et al., 2001). However, Grossâ€™s research suggests that such online pretending is â€œmotivated by a desire to play a joke on friends more often than to explore a desired or future identityâ€ (Gross, 2004, p. 633).
20 The pros and cons of the use of Internet by children is embedded in this larger debate on potential benefits and harms of the use of computers by children. In her review, Livingstone (2003) lists the opportunities for children arising from using the Internet as enhancing communication, identity and participation, as well as education, learning and literacy. Livingstone (2003) also points to the risks of not using computers for children and adolescents. She lists exclusion and digital divide as consequences of not using computers, and inappropriate or undesirable contact, content and commercialism as the harms of using the Internet. While knowing the benefits and risks associated with childrenâ€™s and adolescentsâ€™ use of computers is essential to understanding their experiences at Internet cafs, this study, by investigating adolescentsâ€™ first hand accounts of their experiences, contributes to our understanding of the benefits and risks from adolescentsâ€™ perspectives. Even though the scholarly discussions on the relative benefits and dangers of the use of computers in general, and the Internet in specific have contributed greatly to our understanding of childrenâ€™s use of computers, they fail to produce specific evidence with regards to the use of computers and the Internet in public spaces. The literature on childrenâ€™s use of computers, taking a cognitive standpoint, focuses on the direct interaction between children and computers. The present study, investigating adolescentsâ€™ use of computers and the Internet in public places takes a holistic view on the phenomenon under investigation by studying adolescentsâ€™ experiences within a specific social and cultural context. The Digital Divide Livingstone (2003) argues that not using computers constitutes an exclusion from the potential benefits of computer use. While the benefits of using information
21 technology may suggest that computer use should be a significant part of any education and that any child or adolescent should use computers for his/her education, the opposite is the case in reality. The literature on the digital divide highlights this discrepancy. As a matter of fact, there are vast inequalities in the opportunities of the amount and quality of computer use between individuals (Aichholzer & Schmutzer, 2000; Attewell, 2001; Driori & Jang, 2003; Europa World, 2001; James, 2003; Light, 2001; McAdoo, 2000; Mossberger et al., 2003; Murelli & Okot-Uma, 2002; Natriello, 2001; Norris, 2001; NTIA, 1995, 1998, 1999, 2000; Pierik, 2003; Riel, 2000; Tiene, 2002; Warschauer, 2002, 2003a, 2003b, 2003d). The term â€œdigital divideâ€ is generally used to refer to unequal access and benefits from information technology based on race, gender, age, geographical location, and socio-economic status among others. The digital divide is a very vague term in that it is used by different people to mean different things. It may mean the differences in the domain of computers in general or differences in Internet access in particular. It may highlight the differences in access to computing technology by race, gender, or social class. Recently, the term has been deployed to refer to more than just access differences, pinpointing differences such as those in computer use, skills to use computers, attitudes towards computers, and motivations to do so (Attewell, 2001; Mossberger et al., 2003; Natriello, 2001; Norris, 2001; Riel, 2000). Kerr (2004) refers to the Digital Divide as denoting social class differences, while considering race and gender differences equity issues. The scholarly debate regarding the digital divide ensued in 1991, when Sutton (1991) published the first research review on equity and computers in which she
22 suggested that social class differences, reflected in the inequalities in schools, should be the priority of research. Consequently, several studies and reports demonstrated the differences between social groups in access to computing technology in the US and worldwide, including for instance the â€œFalling Through the Netâ€ reports by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA, 1995, 1998, 1999, 2000), the digital divide in the US (Goslee, 1998), the reactions to the digital divide in India and the US (Warschauer, 2003d), the digital divide in Austria (Aichholzer & Schmutzer, 2000), and the digital divide in Egypt (Warschauer, 2003b). Although digital divide is a term generally used to refer to differences in access, there are multiple levels to the digital divide, of which only one is access. In fact, the definition of the digital divide as constituting differences in access has been rendered problematic and criticized (Light, 2001; McAdoo, 2000; Warschauer, 2002, 2003a, 2003d). These critics argue that the problems of inequity will not be resolved by giving everyone computers. They assert that questions such as whether or not individuals have the skills to use computers, whether or not they have the background to know how to access information, and whether or not they have the motivation to use computers challenge the simple notion that the digital divide is merely an economic issue. Elaborating on this line of argumentation, Attewell (2001) and Natriello (2001) refer to the â€œfirstâ€ and â€œsecondâ€ digital divides. The first digital divide refers to the access divide driven by economic or educational differences, whereas the second digital divide refers to the differences in the way computers are used at school and at home. By the same token, Riel (2000) identified four dimensions of the digital divide. They are â€œthe physical dimensionâ€ (access to hardware), â€œthe communication dimensionâ€ (the amount
23 and speed of Internet connection), â€œthe conceptual/skill dimensionâ€ (the use of computers in promoting higher level skills), and â€œthe personal/value dimensionâ€ (attitudes toward technology). Alternatively, Norris (2001) conceptualizes three divides: â€œThe global divideâ€ as the â€œdivergence of Internet access between industrialized and developing societies,â€ â€œthe social divideâ€ as the â€œgap between information rich and poor in every nation,â€ and â€œthe democratic divideâ€ as â€œthe difference between those who do, and do not, use the panoply of digital resources to engage, mobilize, and participate in public lifeâ€ (p. 4). Also, Mossberger and colleagues (2003) argue that there is not one but several Digital Divides, which they name â€œthe access divide,â€ â€œthe skills divide,â€ â€œthe economic opportunity divide,â€ and â€œthe democratic divide.â€1 The access, skills, and democratic divides are conceptualized in the same way as others described before. The economic opportunity divide refers to the need for computer skills and information networks for employment. The literature pointing to the digital divide in many countries (Aichholzer & Schmutzer, 2000; Goslee, 1998; NTIA, 1995, 1998, 1999, 2000; Warschauer, 2003a, 2003b) demonstrates that there is a divide in access between citizens of rich as well as poor countries. Additionally, the (in)equity issues occur not only within nations, but also between them. A World Bank report states, â€œthe gap is big: rich countries have about 15 % of the worldâ€™s population but about 80 % of the worldâ€™s personal computers (PCs) and almost 90 % of its Internet users. On average, a high-income country has 40 times as many computers per capita as a Sub-Saharan African countryâ€ (World Development Indicators, 2001, p. 264). These significant differences between the rich and the poor 1 The term Democratic Divide was first introduced by Norris (2001) after her cross-national study. This fact is acknowledged and reported by Mossberger et al. (2003).
24 countries is typically referred to as â€œthe Global Digital Divideâ€ (Castells, 2001; Driori & Jang, 2003; Hill & Dhanda, 2003; Murelli & Okot-Uma, 2002; Norris, 2001). Generally speaking, poorer countries tend to have more limited information technology resources per capita. Moreover, these countriesâ€™ economies tend to benefit less form information technology (Norris, 2001). Thus, computers and information technology seem to compound existing differences also in the international domain. Moreover, as James (2003) argues, the divide between rich and poor countries is expected to expand. Thus, while there is a digital divide in poor and rich countries alike, it is more prevalent in some countries than in others. In poorer countries, those on the disadvantaged side of the divide are the majority. Being one of the developing countries, Turkey is lagging behind the developed countries in terms of individualsâ€™ access to and utilization of information technology. The State of Instructional Technology in Turkey Turkeyâ€™s location on the global digital divide also impacts the utilization of instructional technology in schools. To give a few examples, Yedekcioglu (1996), in his study of the use of computers at high schools in Turkey, finds that computer use in high school education in this country was still at very early stages due to a lack of financial resources, appropriate planning, and adequate software. Bayram and Seels (1997), in their study of the utilization of instructional technology, find that the use of old or new technologies in instruction in Turkey is not pervasive, mainly due to a lack of resources. They also indicate that the diffusion of instructional technology was more effective and efficient in private than in public schools, since more resources were available to the former.
25 The literatures on the digital divide, the global digital divide, and instructional technology in Turkey indicate that individuals do not have ample and sustained access to information technology, mainly computers, in Turkey. While owning a computer is rare among adolescents,2 they do not have many opportunities for learning and sustained use of computers at schools either. The present study investigates adolescentsâ€™ use of computers at another venue, Internet cafs, which have the resources for computing technology. Conceptualizing Internet cafs as an alternative to computer use at home or in school, this study has the potential to provide new insights into the digital divide and computer use in Turkey. Public Computer Access In countries that lack resources in public education to meet the needs of all adolescents in terms of using computers, and where individuals are not likely to be able to own computers, public access is a plausible option for sustained computer use. Countries differ in their public computer access points, depending on the stakeholders. For example, the USA has community technology centers as well as public libraries for public computer access (Goslee, 1998), Finland has community resource centers with computers (Uotinen, 2003), and Nordic countries have telecottages (Laegran & Stewart, 2003). In addition to these and many other countries, there are also Internet cafs around the world that are managed privately (The Cybercafe Search Engine, 2004). Public computer access points, in addition to providing access to computers and the Internet for all, can yield additional benefits such as being in a social environment and 2 In 1999, there were 33.8 personal computers per 1000 people in Turkey while this figure was 510.5 in the USA (World Development Indicators, 2001, p. 308).
26 learning from others, in a voluntary manner. The works of Vygotsky (1978) and Lave and Wenger (1991) suggest that adolescents can work with the help of more knowledgeable individuals at public computer access places, by being a member of a community of practice, while at the same time being in charge of their own learning. Even though public access has been recognized as a way to alleviate the digital divide (Gates Foundation, 2004), the impact of Internet cafs has not been part of the discussion. This study focuses on Internet cafs in the discussion of alleviating the digital divide in developing countries even though their primary purpose is not providing access to the public. Moreover, by conceptualizing Internet cafs as informal learning environments, this study contributes to the discussion of adolescentsâ€™ learning with computers in public computer access points. Informal Learning Environments Learning is defined as â€œthe larger concept which involves any modification in an individual or group that results in behavioral change. Some learning results from education â€“ any intentional, overt and organized effort to influence a person or group with the aim of improving quality of lifeâ€ (Reed & Loughran, 1984, p. 2). Human capacity for learning is a form of consciousness characterized by particular attitudes, values, and dispositions (Crick & Wilson, 2005). This consciousness of learning is also tied to a â€œlearning identity.â€ The sense of oneâ€™s self as a learner is embedded in relationships and participation in the learning community. Thus, Crick and Wilson (2005) conclude that lifelong learning requires personal and social commitment and is an intentional and self-aware process. This is consistent with Deweyâ€™s (1938) seminal argument that there is continuity in learning experiences. Rather than episodes of learning, he focuses on the interaction between past and present experience. Each past
27 experience helps the individual form attitudes, dispositions and preferences that will guide the rest of the learning experiences of the individual. Therefore, education is meaningful if it is directly related to life experiences. According to Reed and Loughran (1984), the educational system consists of informal, nonformal, and formal education. Formal education is the smallest part of the educational system and corresponds to the formal school system. Nonformal education is larger, and includes settings like churches, scout groups, and self-help groups where an intentional effort is made to influence people for learning that fills specific needs. Informal education is the largest part of the educational system, and major skills such as languages, interpersonal behavior, and survival strategies are learned â€œthrough a complex of unorganized, but highly effective, teaching-learning interactionsâ€ at settings like home, neighborhood, or peer group (Reed & Loughran, 1984, p. 3). Indeed, Illich (1971) argues that informal education is more effective and influential in childrenâ€™s learning than formal schooling is. He states, â€œIncreasingly educational research demonstrates that children learn most of what teachers pretend to teach them from peer groups, from comics, from chance observations, and above all from mere participation in the ritual of schoolâ€ (Illich, 1971, p. 29). Smith (1997) lists three characteristics of informal education â€“ informal education works through, and is driven by, conversation; it involves exploring and enlarging experience; and it can take place in any setting. Drawing from this literature, Internet cafs are conceptualized here as informal learning environments. Internet cafs allow for unorganized interactions in peer groups. They allow for conversation â€“ be it with one another, with others on the Internet, or with the computer. They involve free exploration and enlarging experience. Indeed, based on
28 Turkleâ€™s arguments (1984; 1997) some activities on the computer can involve deep engagement and involvement, which can be characterized as flow and constitute a very conducive condition to learning (Csikszentmihalyi, 1990). Previous literature has conceptualized community technology centers (Cook & Smith, 2004) and public libraries (Yancey, 2005) as sites for informal learning environments. However, Internet cafs, possibly due to their unstructured nature and the wide range of activities that they enable, have usually been associated with games and chat (see, for example, Yildiz, 2003; Yildiz & Bolukbas, 2002) rather than with learning. Conceptualizing Internet cafs as informal learning environments is an important contribution to the literature on informal learning. Informal and incidental learning is possible in informal public access places such as Internet cafs because adolescents are intrinsically motivated to use technology there. Farmer (2005) states that adolescents usually learn by â€œmess[ing] aroundâ€ and taking risks (p. 99). She adds that they also learn at school, however it is a different set of skills â€“ â€œthe formal, official skillsâ€ (Farmer, 2005, p. 99). Indeed, schools usually strictly control or prohibit email, chat, some Internet searches, and downloading. Paradoxically, it is these very skills that attract adolescents to use computers (Farmer, 2005). Therefore, they are more interested and motivated to use computers at other computer access points such as Internet cafs where they are free to use their programs of interest. In fact, a similar argument was made by Hopkins, Lowe, and McDougall (2004) in their study of learning at an after school computer clubhouse. While the clubhouse studied had some mentors who provided direction and support to children, students were allowed to use computers freely. The authors find that many areas of the curriculum were addressed, sometimes incidentally. They also find that the technology rich setting
29 provided opportunities for both formal and informal learning, and it fostered interpersonal, collaborative, and group working skills. The Role of Computers in Informal and Lifelong Learning Hawkey (2002) states that learning through computers has very much in common with learning in informal learning environments such as museums. He argues that â€œthere [with computers] emphasis is less on the transmission of authoritative expert knowledge and more on empowering learners to develop their own skills of observation, enquiry, and interpretation.â€ Hawkeyâ€™s stance is consistent with the broad popular sentiment suggesting that computers are very well suited for informal and lifelong learning. Others, based on empirical studies, claim that computer use is related to other factors that determine oneâ€™s dispositions for being a lifelong learner. For example, Gorard, Selwyn, and Maddenâ€™s (2003) work suggests that access to ICT (Information and Computer Technologies) alone does not make people any more likely to engage in lifelong learning, and that access to ICT is rather largely patterned according to long-term pre-existing social, economic, and educational factors. Also, in studies conducted regarding the characteristics of those who are inclined to engage in lifelong learning, Gorard and Selwyn (2005) find age, sex, place of birth, ethnicity, parental occupation and education, and initial schooling to be the key determinants of extended initial education, while access to ICT does not have a significant impact on the lifelong learning tendencies. They argue that the mentioned determinants create relatively stable learner identities, and that ICTs only appealed to the â€œusual suspectsâ€ (Gorard & Selwyn, 2005, p. 1211). Imel (2003) reviews the advantages and disadvantages of using the Internet for informal learning of adults. On the one hand she describes the Internet as an ideal
30 medium for supporting informal learning due to its affordances for adults to use resources independently, control the pace and direction of their own learning, and consult others. On the other hand, she points to the issues regarding the role of the Internet in informal learning, which are differences in access, control by authorities, â€œincomplete understanding of the extent and type of learning that is occurringâ€, and skills needed to use the Internet for learning purposes (Imel, 2003, p. 1). Internet Cafs and Internet Cafs in Turkey The existing research on Internet cafs, most of which is published in a special issue of the journal â€œNew Media and Society,â€ is limited. For example, Liff and Laegran (2003) provide an overview of the development of Internet cafs as businesses. Liff and Steward (2003) provide a taxonomy of Internet cafs, drawing from those in the UK and the USA. Their taxonomy consists of cyber/cafs in which the two elements â€“ the computers and the caf remain relatively separate activities, cyber-style cafs that use computers merely to provide a theme for the caf, cybercafs (â€œcyberâ€ italicized) in which the computer element is more dominant, cybercafs (â€œcafâ€ italicized) in which the caf is more dominant, and cybercafs which effectively blend the use of computers to the caf. Uotinen (2003) describes the contribution of an Internet caf in Finland for the communityâ€™s participation in the information society. Laegran and Stewart (2003) come to define Internet caf as â€œthe intersection of translocal images and local circumstancesâ€ (p. 357) based on empirical studies in Scotland and Norway. And finally, Wakeford (2003) discusses how the local culture is embedded in global communication in an Internet Caf environment, in her studies of Internet cafs in London. Internet cafs as public access places to computers and the Internet exist in various countries. To give a few examples, newspapers report the opening of Internet cafs in
31 Egypt (EuropaWorld, 2001), South Africa (BBCnews, 2002), and Afghanistan (Majumder, 2003) respectively. They indicate that the opening of Internet cafs in poor countries makes it possible for many people to use computers who would not be able to do so otherwise. A report in â€œThe Star Onlineâ€ (2004), reporting that local governments in Malaysia planned to stop issuing licenses for Internet cafs to prevent them from becoming involved in pornography and gambling activities, illustrates well potential controversies associated with this enhanced access to computers. In Turkey, Internet cafs are a relatively recent phenomenon, and they constitute by and large the only public computer access available in Turkey. However, the research on Internet cafs in Turkey focuses on the sociocultural aspects such as using chat or social deviation (Bolukbas, 2003; Yildiz, 2003; Yildiz & Bolukbas, 2002, 2003) rather than the educational aspects of using computers at Internet cafs. More specifically, sociologists Yildiz and Bolukbas (2003) were involved in studying Internet cafs in a southeastern city of Turkey. They find that 94.7 % of Internet Caf customers were males, and that males tended to spend more time there than females. Kuloglu (2001), in her research in Ankara, a generally more progressive city and the capital of Turkey, finds that 80 % of Internet caf users were males. Golge and Arli (2003), in their study of college studentsâ€™ use of the computers and the Internet outside the university, find that 53 % of college students go to an Internet caf at least once a month. This number is 45.5 % for those who own a computer and 58.3 % for those who use a family computer. Yildiz and Bolukbas (2003) conclude that Internet cafs are a continuation of coffeehouses in that they are culturally male dominant as most other public places such as coffeehouses or stadiums in Turkey are.
32 The present study contributes to the literature on Internet cafs by adding a new dimension educational uses to the existing research. The Regulation of Internet Cafs as Informal Learning Environments The Turkish administratorsâ€™ approach to Internet cafs is determined by complex goals. While acknowledging the benefits of Internet cafs for adolescents, public administrators attempt to prevent them from being exposed to the possible harms of non-supervised access to the Internet. As do many other countries, from developing countries to western democracies, the Turkish government bans certain websites thus making access to these sites illegal. The stated purposes for such limitations include protecting innocent children, thwarting terrorists and related organizations, silencing racists, and stopping the spread of unfriendly ideas (Altintas, Aydin, & Akman, 2002). Monitoring and restricting Internet content and access are particularly important for places where minors can use the Internet3 without close supervision of an adult such as a teacher or family member, whose main role would be to ensure positive contact with computers. For the purpose of monitoring and restricting Internet content and access, the local police in Turkey occasionally conduct raids in Internet cafs (Moore, 2001). Although Turkish education officials are generally interested in diffusing computer and instructional technology use, it seems that at present they are more concerned with the negative consequences of computer use than with their potential benefits. The benefits and risks associated with childrenâ€™s use of computers and the Internet have been described earlier in the literature review. 3 In Turkey, minors between ages 15 and 18 are allowed to use Internet cafs.
33 The administration may choose the safer course of action also given the lack of research about Internet cafs â€“ particularly regarding educational uses of computers at Internet cafs. This gap in the literature regarding the activities adolescents engage in at Internet cafs and regarding educational uses of computers at Internet cafs may be an inhibiting factor in education administratorâ€™s further support of Internet cafs as learning environments for adolescents. The present study contributes to building an understanding regarding which activities adolescents engage in at Internet cafs, the benefits they derive from their experiences at Internet cafs as well as the concerns regarding their using computers at Internet cafs. Summary In this chapter, I have reviewed the literature on childrenâ€™s computer use, digital divide, the state of instructional technology in Turkey, public computer access, informal learning environments, Internet cafs and Internet cafs in Turkey, and the regulation of Internet cafs as informal learning environments. Based on this review, I conclude that despite its potential harms, using computers and the Internet has many potential benefits for adolescentsâ€™ education and development. However, the digital divide literature suggests that there are large gaps between individualsâ€™ use of these information technology resources, and that those who are on the disadvantaged side of the digital divide are deprived of the benefits of information technology. While adolescents can learn and use information technology tools at school, the state of the utilization of instructional technology in Turkey has not been as promising as it could be. In several countries, resources and education in information technology in schools are supplemented by public access points. In Turkey, the only kind of public access points available is the Internet caf. Internet cafs are in fact potential hotbeds for informal
34 education. However, research on Internet cafs does not address their aspect of being places for informal education and their potential to support the education of adolescents in Turkey, thus alleviating the digital divide in Turkey as well as enhancing Turkeyâ€™s position on the scale of the global digital divide. Moreover, this gap in the literature may impede the decisions of educational administration regarding Internet cafs. This study fills that gap by conceptualizing Internet cafs as places where adolescents can amply access computers and the Internet, and contribute to their informal learning, thus potentially reaching the benefits of computer use and reducing the impact of the digital divide on themselves.
CHAPTER 3 METHODOLOGY This chapter outlines the theoretical framework that guided the study as well as the methods employed to conduct it. First, the framework of phenomenology and its theoretical underpinnings are explained. Second, the context in which the data were collected along with background information on Turkey is described. Third, a subjectivity statement is presented in which the researcherâ€™s subjectivity with regard to the research topic is described. Fourth, the methods including the procedures for the selection of participants, data collection, and data analysis, and ethical considerations are explained. Finally, the validity and the limitations of the study are discussed. Phenomenology is selected as the theoretical orientation to guide this study. It is important to note that the term â€œphenomenologyâ€ refers to a theoretical perspective, while â€œphenomenological interviewâ€ is a data collection method, and â€œphenomenal analysisâ€ is a data analysis method. Having made the distinction, phenomenology is used to refer to the theoretical perspective in this dissertation. The purpose of the study is to understand the experiences of adolescents who use Internet cafs regularly for their education in Turkey. The study aims to produce a description of the experiences and meanings of a small group of adolescents. The research questions that guide the study are restated below: How do adolescents describe their experiences of educational uses of computers at Internet cafs? How do adolescents interpret their experiences of educational uses of computers at Internet cafs? 35
36 The selection of the theoretical orientation of phenomenology is based on the research questions this study explores. These research questions ask how adolescents describe and interpret their experiences of educational uses of computers at Internet cafs. Phenomenology is a suitable framework to explore these questions since it is concerned with the lived experiences of individuals and seeks reality in individualsâ€™ narratives of their experiences and their feelings. In this study, I am concerned with adolescentsâ€™ lived experiences of educational computer uses at Internet cafs. My aim is to uncover the textures and structures of these experiences to arrive at the essence of the experience. Historical Origins of Phenomenology The origins of phenomenology date back to the beginning of the 20th century. Although the term Phenomenology was used in the mid eighteenth century and had been used By Kant and Hegel, â€œit is now used to refer to a homogenous and systematically developed philosophical positionâ€ (Audi, 2001, p. 644). German philosopher Edmund Husserl was the first to develop the philosophy along with his followers (Audi, 2001). Martin Heidegger, a student of Husserlâ€™s continued the tradition, with significant changes such as focusing on the social context of perception and not focusing on the real-ideal duality. Other phenomenologist philosophers include Maurice Merleau-Ponty, Paul Ricoeur, and Jean Paul Sartre. Phenomenology is not one single philosophy, but rather includes different philosophies (Audi, 2001). Transcendental Phenomenology Among those, Husserlâ€™s approach, Transcendental Phenomenology and Heideggerâ€™s approach, Existential Phenomenology, are the two most significant ones, particularly because of their contrast. Husserlâ€™s ideas are rooted in Realism and Idealism.
37 Realism maintains that a world exists without humanâ€™s consciousness of it. In other words, there are things regardless of humans, constituting a world of objects to be discovered and perceived by humans. This also implies that reality precedes appearance and appearance is not a prerequisite for reality. Idealism, on the other hand, maintains that there is a relation between objects and minds. The external world is not independent of the cognizant minds. Some versions of Idealism argue that there is nothing beyond the mind and that all there is are minds and thoughts (Audi, 2001). Husserl emphasized the essences of things and ideas while acknowledging a world of objects (Crotty, 1998). The influence of realism was manifested in the assumption that there are â€˜things themselvesâ€™. Husserl argued that there exists a natural or real world before our consciousness of it. Crotty defines the â€˜things themselvesâ€™, as â€œphenomena that present themselves immediately to us as conscious human beingsâ€ (1998, p. 78). The emphasis on the objects and the move â€œback to the things themselvesâ€ is a consequence of an understanding that consciousness requires an object. One cannot be conscious without being conscious of something. Existential Phenomenology Heideggerâ€™s thought is rooted in an Existentialist perspective, which focuses on the uniqueness of individuals. He emphasized the social dimension of being, oneâ€™s relation to others, and oneâ€™s embeddedness in a culture. With this perspective, he did not focus on the real-ideal duality. He took a hermeneutic approach to phenomenology, in which he put the person and his/her subjectivity at the center. Existentialist Phenomenology attempts to see things as a whole and interpret them from one perspective, whereas Transcendental Phenomenology attempts to strip the objects from the real-ideal compound in order to reach the essence.
38 Key Concepts of Phenomenology The key concepts of Phenomenology are described below, followed by an explanation of how phenomenology and its key concepts are applied to the present study. Epoche The Epoche concept, which refers to â€œdisciplined, systematic efforts to set aside prejudgments regarding the phenomenon being investigatedâ€ (Moustakas, 1994, p. 22), is a demonstration of the transcendental aspect of epistemology, which is the concern for the a priori or intuitive basis of knowledge as independent of experience. Epoche, in its simplest definition, means the suspension of judgment/prejudgment. â€˜Epocheâ€™ is a German word with middle Latin and Greek origins. Its original meaning was â€˜to bring something to a stop.â€™ According to the Duden German Dictionary (Dudenredaktion, 2003) Epoche is a long historical period whose beginning and end are characterized by a pronounced change of circumstances. In the context of phenomenological research, Epoche means the deliberate suspension of prejudgment throughout the study. Given that for phenomenologists culture is limiting and blinding, looking at the world with an â€œunadultered mindâ€, with a fresh look, an intuitive grasp is important to conduct reliable research (Crotty, 1998). Indeed, Husserl (1970) in his Logical Investigations asserts that a research study (â€œan epistemological investigationâ€) â€œthat can seriously claim to be scientific must satisfy the principle of freedom from suppositionsâ€ (p. 263). For Moustakas (1994), this means, â€œthe raising of knowledge above every possible doubtâ€ (p. 26). Intentionality Another key concept of phenomenology is intentionality. Although the term is a key discussion point in research methodologies, and other theoretical perspectives, it is of
39 particular importance to phenomenology. In fact, intentionality is at the heart of phenomenology and is subscribed to by all phenomenologists (Audi, 2001). Crotty explains â€œ[Intentionality] denotes the essential relationship between conscious subjects and their objectsâ€ (1998, p. 79). The word comes from â€œintendâ€ and conveys that the mind intends toward an object in the process of perception. Phenomenology maintains that consciousness always refers to consciousness of an object, and the consciousness of an object requires a subject. Therefore, the â€œperception of the reality of an object is dependent on a subjectâ€ (Moustakas, 1994, p. 27). Subjects and objects are interrelated, and indeed meanings derive from this interrelation. From a phenomenological standpoint, every experience consists of two dimensions â€“ the material and the ideal. In order to reach the essence of experience, the researcher engages in Phenomenological Reduction (which will be discussed in the Analysis section) in order to eliminate the particulars and the material dimension outside the phenomenon. Noema and Noesis Every psychical experience consists of two dimensions â€“ the act and the object â€“ Noesis and Noema. Moustakas explains, Noesis refers to the act of perceiving, feeling, thinking, remembering, or judging â€“ all of which are embedded with meanings that are concealed and hidden from consciousness. The meanings must be recognized and drawn out (Moustakas, 1994, p. 69) The other central concept of intentionality is that of Noema. The Noema corresponds at all points to the Noesis. Wherever a noesis exists it is always directly related to a Noema. The noema in perception is its perceptual meaning or the perceived as such; in recollection, the remembered as such; in judging, the judged as such (Moustakas, 1994, p. 69)
40 Noema is the what of the experience and Noesis is the how of the experience, and together they make up the ideal dimension of the experience, the perceptions of an experience. Therefore, in phenomenological research, the participantsâ€™ experiences are analyzed in two dimensions â€“ the what and the how. The what and the how of the ideal dimension of the experience correspond to the textures and the structures of the experience, and these are described in the textural and structural descriptions respectively. The Application of Husserlâ€™s Transcendental Phenomenology to This Study As the study benefits from Husserlâ€™s Transcendental Phenomenology (which for simplicity is referred to as Phenomenology in this dissertation), I explain here how the theory is applied to the research context. As mentioned above, Phenomenology is grounded in the ontology that is a combination of Realism and Idealism. Moustakas states that for Husserl, â€œknowledge based on intuition and essence precedes empirical knowledgeâ€ and he quotes Husserl saying â€œUltimately, all genuine, and, in particular, all scientific knowledge, rests on inner evidence: as far as such evidence extends, the concept of knowledge extends alsoâ€ (Moustakas, 1994, p. 26). Although not explicitly stated, apparent in the concept of intentionality is the epistemology underlying Husserlâ€™s Phenomenology. The belief that meaning is found in the interrelationship between the subject and the object resembles the constructionist epistemology. Overall, Phenomenology attempts to analyze experiences and meanings. It deals with individualsâ€™ or a particular small groupâ€™s experiences of a particular phenomenon. The focus is on approaching the phenomenon from the participantsâ€™ perspectives and on understanding the meaning of those experiences for them. Reality underlies participantsâ€™ experiences and the researcher intends to uncover the reality that is reflected in the
41 experiences of the participants. Reality is experienced differently by different people and we can only understand reality from the lived experiences of individuals. Since a high level of objectivity on the researcherâ€™s part is required in phenomenological research, the data sources are participantsâ€™ narratives of their experiences rather than more subjectivist methods such as observations. The narratives in this study are collected through individual interviews with the participants, in which open ended questions are asked to prompt the participant to describe his/her experiences in detail. A Phenomenological framework guides all stages of this study including the statement of the research questions, participant selection, data collection, and data analysis. Therefore, all the key concepts of phenomenology are applied to this study. First, I engage in the Epoche process throughout the study. In order to bracket my subjectivity, I began with writing a subjectivity statement (Peshkin, 1988). The subjectivity statement, included in this dissertation, is a statement of my experiences and beliefs regarding the educational uses of computers at Internet cafs. Second, the concept of intentionality was applied to the research context by asking the participants to describe both the factual information regarding their experiences and their reflection on their experiences. Their narratives arise out of their consciousness and perception of their experiences. Even though, the essence of the experience lies in the ideal dimension of experience, participantsâ€™ accounts are integrations of the material and the ideal. Third, the concepts of noema and noesis are applied by composing the double narratives for each participant. The noema (the perceived as such) and the noesis (the act of perceiving) of the experience are analyzed through writing the textures and the
42 structures of the experience. The textural descriptions refer to the perceived experiences, while the structural descriptions refer to how these perceptions occurred. Indeed, these two descriptions are the two ways of knowing inherent in phenomenology â€“ the participantsâ€™ accounts and the researcherâ€™s interpretation of these accounts. Context of the Study Turkey Turkey is a country located at the intersection of Southeastern Europe and Southwestern Asia. Its population is close to 68 million, with 27 % younger than 15 years old and 66 % between 15 and 64 years (CIA World Factbook, 2003). The population is increasing by 1.9 % per year (World Development Indicators, 2001, p. 46). Due to its relatively young population, education is particularly vital for Turkey. The education system consists of optional preschool education,1 mandatory 8-year-long elementary school, and 3-year and 4-year high schools. Completion of high school takes 4 years in vocational schools and English-medium schools, which admit based on centralized aptitude tests. Higher education institutions offer two-year vocational programs, four-year bachelors programs, and graduate programs. There are 75 public and private universities. Higher education is competitive to enter, but costs are relatively low due to government subsidies.2 Because selection is based on performance, and attendance to college is strongly supported by the government, there is a relatively level ground for all individuals to get higher education. 1 Attendance to preschool programs is 8 % (World Development Indicators, 2001) 2 Based on the World Bank data, the expenditure on tertiary education per student as a percentage of GNI was 51.1 % in 1997 (World Development Indicators, 2001, p. 84)
43 However, higher education does not warrant quality employment since Turkey has high unemployment rates (OECD, 2001, 2003; World Development Indicators, 2001). To give an example, in 2002, the rate of unemployment was 10.8 % and the rate of underemployment was 6.1 % (CIA World Factbook, 2003). Although a higher level of education increases oneâ€™s chances to find employment, university graduates are no exception to those under threat of unemployment or underemployment.3 Due to the dire competition in the job market, additional skills such as foreign languages or computer related competencies may be seen as paths to individual economic progress. Indeed, Mossberger et al. (2003), in their study with U.S. Americans, also find participantsâ€™ faith in computer skills as a path to economic advantage. While computer literacy is an asset for adolescents and adults alike, few people have the privilege of ample access to computers, due to economic reasons. Turkey is classified by the World Bank as a â€œlower middle income countryâ€ (World Development Indicators, 2001, front cover flap). Its economy with $186.5 billions of Gross National Income ranks it the 22nd largest economy in the world. However, the gross national income per capita is $2900, ranking 90th in the world (World Development Indicators, 2001, p. 14). Due to the low Gross National Income per capita, the average purchasing power is low. The low average purchasing power, coupled with the uneven distribution of income,4 leads to a situation in which most people in Turkey are not able to purchase a computer with their regular income. This lack of purchasing power is reflected in the 3 Unemployment was more than 5 % for university graduates in Turkey (OECD, 2003) 4 In 1994, Percentage Share of Income or Consumption for the lowest 10% of the population was 2.3, for the lowest 20 % 5.8, for the second 20 % 10.2, for the third 20 % 14.8, for the fourth 20 % 21.6, for the highest 20 % 47.7, for the highest 10% 32.3 (World Development Indicators, 2001, p. 72). This implies that more than 60 % of the people make less than average income.
44 statistics of the World Bank: in 1999 there were 33.8 personal computers per 1000 people in Turkey while this figure was 510.5 in the USA (World Development Indicators, 2001, p. 308). Due to the low accessibility of personal computers, people who want to use computers resort to using public computers. However, public libraries with computers are uncommon. Nor are there are any public resources such as community technology centers. What remains for most people is to use computers are Internet cafs. This does not mean that none or few customers of Internet cafs own or have access to computers. However, Internet cafs do provide the possibility for many people to use computers who otherwise do not have access. This is particularly true because their prices are not high (approximately 60 per hour in 2004). Internet cafs have become widespread and increased in popularity within the last decade in Turkey. They charge fees for use by time, typically in 15-minute increments. Some of them have promotions such as the 4th hour free after a block of 3 hours. They are most popular among adolescents. A major part of their popularity is owing to computer games. Balikesir This dissertation study as well as the pilot study was conducted in Balikesir. Balikesir is a city in the western region of Turkey. Since the city is relatively large (population= 300,000) and houses several Internet cafs (approximately180) it was possible to select a completely different set of individuals and context for the principal study than for the pilot study. I selected Balikesir as the research site, particularly due to its convenience as a research site. I am familiar with the city, the Internet cafs, and I have social connections that helped me with locating Internet cafs for the study.
45 Internet Cafs in Turkey Generally, there is much variation in the size and physical arrangement of Internet cafs. The Cybercaf Search Engine reported 6812 verified Cybercafs, public Internet access points, and kiosks in 170 countries as of December 2003 (The Cybercafe Search Engine, 2004). These numbers only reflect the Internet cafs registered to this database, and there may be many local businesses that are not even aware of such as database. Hence, I assume that there are more Internet cafs in the world than the above number. For example, just in Balikesir alone, there were approximately 180 Internet cafs in June 2003 (based on the account of one of the members of the local Internet cafs union) whereas the Cybercaf Search Engine contained only 12 Internet cafs located in Turkey. Subjectivity Statement I am a young Turkish woman, who has grown up in Turkey. I come from a middle class family who places much emphasis on education. As an adolescent, I was lucky enough to have ample access to resources such as libraries, foreign language labs, science labs, computers, and sports facilities at the schools I attended. Starting with college, I also had a computer at home. By the time I graduated from college I was a proficient computer user. Even though I have experiences with different activities on the computer, I was an instrumental user. In other words, I did not regularly play computer games or chatted, but I used computers mainly to learn and to do assignments. Currently, I use computers only for doing work, collecting information, and communicating with friends. I did not use Internet cafs as an adolescent, and later used them very rarely to check email while traveling. I did, however, use computers in public areas such as school/university computer labs. It was then that I became familiar with people who were â€œregularsâ€ at Internet cafs or computer addicts. I met several people who were not good
46 in school, but were considered computer geniuses. They proved to me that even playing â€œMUDsâ€ (multi-user domain role playing games) could help one gain important computer skills, that being in a community of computer users can be extremely helpful, and that one could learn to use computers in creative ways if he/she has enough exposure to them. Some of those people that I became friends with did eventually make careers out of their unique computer skills. They also led me to see computers as means for upward social mobility and economic opportunity. My perception of educational uses is broad and general. I believe that anything that contributes to oneâ€™s learning, education, and development (mental, physical, emotional) is an educational use of computers. All experiences that lead to learning, whether intentional or not, are educational experiences. They include learning content matter, practical skills (such as cooking), emotional skills (such as conflict resolution), social skills (table manners), intellectual development, and information technology skills (such as programming, emailing, and graphics design). Even though I have received support from my environment in pursuing an education in technology, it is not uncommon for me to face surprise when I tell strangers (even established academics) of my field and studies. Given the social roles traditionally attached to females, I believe that specializing in computers/technology, or merely using computers for that matter, presents females with experiences that are distinct from that of males. Furthermore, due to my interest in actively supporting equality across genders, I believe femalesâ€™ voices are worthy of being listened to and included in any venture, including research. This is the personal value side of my rationale for the inclusion of females in this study, despite the fact that it was easier to recruit males.
47 It is with this background and beliefs that I look at the phenomenon of adolescentsâ€™ educational uses of computers at Internet cafs. I made every effort to bracket these beliefs throughout the study, yet caution the readers to evaluate the findings with this subjectivity statement in mind. Methods Selection of Participants Adolescents who use computers at Internet cafs regularly for educational purposes constitute the participant pool for this study. A total of six participants, including both males and females were recruited. Particular effort was made to include females because the lack of such specific effort turned a male-only participant group for the pilot study. Given that this study is not designed to present the experiences of a particular gender group, but of adolescents in general, it was essential to include females as well as males. Moreover, as I stated in my subjectivity statement, it is important for me that femalesâ€™ experiences are also explored and presented in this study. However, it is important to note that it is not the purpose of this study to address gender differences in adolescentsâ€™ experiences of educational uses of computers at Internet cafs. Furthermore, a phenomenological framework does not favor comparisons within heterogeneously structured groups, but rather it aims to construct a shared essence of experiences within a particular group. Indeed, a mixed gender group constitutes a sampling limitation from a phenomenological perspective. Having a small and rather homogenous participant group serves the purposes of phenomenology best that is describing the experiences of a particular group. In order to select as homogenous a group of participants as possible, fliers were posted in only two Internet cafs in the city. Participants voluntarily contacting the researcher were asked a
48 set of questions to determine whether or not they qualified as participants before they were accepted as such. First, they were required to go to Internet cafs at least twice a week, so that they have meaningful experiences at the Internet Cafs and these are a significant part of their lives. Second they were asked if they used computers at Internet cafs for education. Phenomenology dictates that researchers do not define the terms related to the phenomenon being investigated for the participants. Therefore, the participantsâ€™ definition of educational use preceded the researcherâ€™s. However, a list of possible educational uses of computers was created as a guide based on ISTEâ€™s (2000) standards for students (See Chapter 1 for a definition of Educational Uses of Computers). Participants who, in their definition of educational uses, referred to several of the items on that list were allowed to participate. Other criteria for the selection of participants included being a high school student, agreeing to participate in audio-recorded interviews, and having parental consent (for minors). IRB Procedures Institutional Review Board approval was obtained prior to participant selection and data collection. Written and signed consent was obtained from the parents or guardian(s) of participants who are younger than 18. Participants were made aware of their rights to not participate in the study, not continue the interviews, not respond to every question, and stop allowing me to use their data, while their parents will reserve the right to allow or disallow their child to do any of the above. Once the data was collected, utmost care was taken to protect the privacy of the participants by using pseudonyms and changing or removing any identifying information in reports. Specifically, while information such as the age, gender, and area studied in school of participants was kept as is, the names were
49 changed to pseudonyms and any identifying information was removed from any report and document included in the study excluding the informed consent forms, and background information surveys. Those documents that included identifying information and the audio-tapes were not accessed by anyone other than the researcher. The transcription was done only by the researcher. In order not to make the interview process a unilaterally beneficial relationship, I tried to create a benefit for the participants as well. While the sharing of valuable and sometimes personal information can not easily be compensated, I compensated the participants for their time they spent with me. Participants were given 6 hours of free computer/Internet access at the Internet caf they attended in return for the interviews in which they have participated. Participants The descriptions of participants below are obtained from the Participant Background Survey (See Appendix A) the participants were asked to fill in before the interviews. Their levels of computer use and skills are their own perceptions, which they noted in their response to the Background Information Sheet. Emir is a 16-year old male 9th grade student. He owns a computer with Internet access. He uses the Internet caf for 2-3 hours every day, and has done so for the last 5 years. He thinks he is an advanced computer user. He has divorced parents and lives with his single father. Amber is a 17-year old female 10th grade student. She is Emirâ€™s close friend. She does not own a computer, but can occasionally use one at home or in her fatherâ€™s office. Everyone in her family uses computers. She uses the Internet caf for 2 hours every day, and has done so for the last 7 years. She thinks she is an advanced computer user.
50 Mehmet is an 18-year old male 11th grade student. He is Amberâ€™s brother, and knows Emir. He does not own a computer, but can occasionally use a computer at home, at his fatherâ€™s shop, or at school. He also sometimes helps his father with computer related work. Everyone in his family uses computers. He uses the Internet caf for 3 hours every day, and has done so for the last 10 years. He thinks he is a â€œsuperâ€ computer user. Aylin is an 18-year old female 11th grade student. She is preparing for college in English. She owns a computer and can also use one at her parentsâ€™ shop. Her father also uses computers. She uses Internet cafs for 4-5 hours a week, and has done so for the last 5 years. She thinks she is good at computers. Leyla is an 18-year old female 11th grade student. She is Aylinâ€™s friend. She is preparing for college in English. She does not own a computer but can use one at school. She uses Internet cafs 4-6 hours a week, and has done so for the last 2 years. She thinks she is a mediocre computer user. Deniz is a 17-year old male 11th grade student. He attends vocational school in computer hardware. He owns a computer, but does not have Internet access at home. He also has ample access to computers at school. His younger brother also uses computers. He uses Internet cafs 3 hours every day, and has done so for the last 5 years. He thinks his computer skills are enough but can be developed further. Data Collection The data of the study consist of responses to a Participant Background Survey and series of open-ended in-depth phenomenological interviews. Seidmanâ€™s (1991) three series interviews were used as the framework for the interviews. According to this framework, every participant is interviewed three consecutive times. Seidman (1991)
51 explains, â€œThe first interview establishes the context of the participantsâ€™ experience. The second allows participants to reconstruct the details of their experience within the context in which it occurs. And the third encourages the participants to reflect on the meaning their experience holds for themâ€ (Seidman, 1991, p. 11). In this study, the first interview sought a description of adolescentsâ€™ experiences of educational uses of computers at Internet cafs, the second focused on significant experiences and the details of their experiences. Finally, in the third interview participants reflected on the meaning of their experiences and provided me with feedback on my interpretation of their experiences (See Appendix B for the interview questions). In light of this research design, the three interviews with each participant were structured as follows. The first interview surveyed the participantâ€™s experiences of using Internet cafs in general, the educational activities engaged in at the Internet caf, the history of such experiences, and the perceived benefits of such experiences. The second interview focused on the experiences of the phenomenon that are significant to the participant, the meaning of those experiences, his/her reflections on the experiences and feelings about them. The third interview focused on open reflections regarding the significance of such experiences at the Internet caf, the meaning of the experience, and a discussion of earlier interviews. Even though Phenomenology relies on narrative accounts of participants, with little interference or direction from the interviewer, some structure is needed with adolescents. I have experienced with the pilot study that some adolescents have difficulty describing their experiences since they have not thought about them before. Therefore, the first two interviews were semi-structured, while the last one was left as an unstructured reflection
52 and feedback session. Kvale defines a semi-structured interview as â€œ[having] a sequence of themes to be covered, as well as suggested questions. Yet at the same time there is an openness to changes of sequence and forms of questions in order to follow up the answers given and the stories told by the subjectsâ€ (Kvale, 1996, p. 124). In fact, after one of the participants asked to review the interview guide before participating in the interview, I offered this option to all participants interviewing afterwards. Some said that it was helpful for them to organize their thoughts beforehand. I applied the co-researcher concept in the interviews (Moustakas, 1994). I explained the purpose of the study, and asked the participants to be a co-researcher, seeking answers to the research questions. Thus, the participants were explained that they should give constant feedback to the researcher. Contrary to the general belief that co-researchers are to be involved in the study, the meaning of a co-researcher in phenomenology (Moustakas, 1994) only requires them to seek answers to the research questions, to be proactive in interviews, and to take initiative in describing their experiences rather than being led by the researcher. The co-researchers are asked for feedback of the researcherâ€™s interpretations of their statements. This happens mainly during the third interview. The application of the co-researcher concept not only helped me to learn more about the participantsâ€™ perceptions but also served as a validation for the study. The interviews took approximately 1 hour each, varying from 40 minutes to 90 minutes. Seidman (1991) argues that 90 minutes is an appropriate length for phenomenological interviews. However, he suggests that shorter periods may be more appropriate for younger participants. In light of this, participants took the lead in
53 determining the length. While some participants who were more articulate took up to 90 minutes were allowed to do so, others who took less time were not pressured to talk longer. The series of interviews for each participant were completed in 1 to 8 days. Scheduling required some interviews to be 7 days apart while some participants had more than one interview on the same day. The interviews were conducted at public places, mainly at the common room or caf section of the Internet cafs. The interviews were conducted in Turkish and were audio-recorded. Later, they were transcribed verbatim and translated into English by the researcher before being analyzed. Before the first interview, each participant was asked to respond to a Participant Background Survey (see Appendix A) in which they gave information about their demographics, Internet Caf use habits, computer access, and their perceptions of their computer proficiency. This was the second data source in the study. The information gathered from this survey was used to get to know the participants in order to be able to put the findings into context and to help interpretation of the data. Consequently, it was used to present to the reader a thick description of each participant. Their responses were compiled and summarized to a paragraph and presented to the readers. The description of participants in the above section was based on this information. Data Analysis This section describes and lists the steps taken for analyzing the data as well as preparation of the data. The general procedures engaged in were preparation of the data to be analyzed, phenomenological reduction, imaginative variation, and uncovering the essence of the experience. The data were analyzed using Phenomenal Analysis (Moustakas, 1994).
54 Even though a researcher is supposed to engage in Epoche throughout the study, it is most important to keep oneâ€™s subjectivity in brackets during the data analysis process. Therefore, before starting data analysis, I read once more my subjectivity statement and reflected on my experience regarding the phenomenon, in order to understand my position better in the study. Then, I transcribed the interviews verbatim (Poland, 2002). Once the interview data was in writing, I read them completely a few times to familiarize myself with the data. Then, I merged all the data from each participant chronologically into one document, to have each participantâ€™s narrative. Phenomenological reduction For each participant, the data were â€œhorizonalizedâ€ (Moustakas, 1994, p. 120). In other words, I took a fresh look at the data. Setting aside my subjectivity, I tried to make sure to treat every statement related to the phenomenon as having equal value. Any statement that is relevant to the phenomenon of â€œeducational uses of computers at Internet cafsâ€ was recorded. Statements that are not directly related to the phenomenon were eliminated. For example, statements about learning computers but not about educational uses of computers at Internet cafs are not included, as they do not pass the relevancy test. No matter how natural a connection there seems to be between the two concepts, it has to be made by the participant explicitly in order to be included in the analysis. Otherwise the statement reflects the researcherâ€™s subjectivity and should be avoided, as suggested by the Transcendental Phenomenology framework. The relevant statements were translated into English as closely resembling the original as possible. The English translation of each paragraph was typed below the original paragraph, which was highlighted in the full transcript of interviews. This organization had the utility of having all the information in one place to be able to receive feedback. Since
55 phenomenology requires significant effort on the part of the researcher to avoid bias or subjectivity, and since translation is subject to interpretation, a second opinion was important to obtain. A scholar with Turkish as his native language, earning a Ph.D. in educational technology at a research university in the United States verified the steps 2 and 5. He checked (1) if the relevant statements that were selected in step 2 were relevant in his opinion and (2) if the translations were accurate and did not distort the meaning. After the person made notes, he discussed the points with the researcher. The points of disagreement were discussed and new formulations were sought until an agreement was reached. The horizonalized and translated data were then split into meaning units. The relevant statements were split into statements such that each has only one meaning. Therefore, at this stage, some statements that were selected in the previous stage as relevant were split into a few pieces to constitute units of meaning. They were split whenever there was a transition in meaning. The statements that do not have a transition in meaning were recorded as is, as meaning units. The meaning units were then organized by similarity. Groups of meaning units that stood out were organized into themes. Meaning units were then fine-tuned by eliminating repetitions and removing overlaps. Similar themes were aggregated into a theme cluster when possible. This stage consisted mainly of combining the meaning units into a narrative format with the use of themes. For each participant, the list of meaning units was arranged into a flowing story. A narrative of the textures of each participantâ€™s experience was written. The textures refer to the particulars, the material dimension of the experience. The participantâ€™s statements were quoted abundantly in the textural descriptions. The researcherâ€™s interpretations were
56 not included in the textural descriptions, since they comprise the objective dimension of the analysis. This step was repeated for each participant, and a textural description was written for each participant. Imaginative variation At this step, I elaborated on the individual textural descriptions to arrive at the underlying structures of the experience â€“ what possibly could account for the experience. I wrote down all the possible explanations that can account for the experience, and I varied them. I read the textural descriptions several times so as to approach the experience from different points of view and to derive possible explanations. At this stage in the analysis, Moustakas (1994) advices to engage in â€œfree fantasyâ€, to think about just anything that may account for the textures of the experience. I looked for the underlying structures of experiences, varied the possibilities, and thought about anything that can account for the experience. Then, I made connections between the statements within the text. Often I referred to the original transcripts to check if the possible structures I thought about could explain the experience and if they would cohere with the rest of the narrative. After the imaginative variation stage, where I looked for all the structures that can account for the experience of the participant and compared them to the rest of the text, I eliminated those elements that contradicted the data at large. In this way I arrived at a consistent story for each participant. Then, the explanations that are supported by the rest of the text were combined into narrative form in my words. This narrative was my interpretation of the participantâ€™s experiences. It described the structures of the experience, my interpretation of what may account for the experience as it is lived by the
57 participant. This narrative constituted the structural description of the participantâ€™s experience. This was repeated for each participant to result in six structural descriptions. Synthesis The meaning units for each participant were combined to make a list. From this list, meaning units common to all six participants were sought. There was no meaning unit that was shared by all six participants. There were six meaning units that were shared by five of the participants. (See Appendix C for a list of meaning units and shared meaning units.) These six meaning units will be called the â€œshared meaning unitsâ€. The composite textural and structural descriptions were written based on these six meaning units. The next two stages consist of integrating the descriptions from different participants. First, textural descriptions for each participant were integrated based on the shared meaning units, as described earlier. Those meaning units in the individual textural descriptions that were not â€œshared meaning unitsâ€ were eliminated. The combined narrative was written in the third person representing the group as a whole. Second, following the same procedure, the individual structural descriptions were combined into one document along the meaning units that are shared by five participants. This represented the group as a whole, which explained the common structures of the experiences to the group. This stage is the synthesis of the two narratives for the group as a whole. The Composite Structural description was integrated with the Composite Textural description to create a universal description of the phenomenon of â€œeducational uses of computers at Internet cafs.â€ The purpose of this step was to reach the essence of the experience of educational uses of computers at Internet cafs. Moustakas (1994) describes essence as â€œthat which is common or universal, the condition or quality without which a thing would
58 not be what it isâ€ (p. 100). The synthesis was detached from particular experiences of the individuals, to reach the universals of the experience, while statements from the composite textural descriptions were used to provide support. The synthesis includes an explanation of the essence of the experience and its elements. Validity Considerations Validity of qualitative research refers to the rigor of the study to ensure that the findings are a result of the appropriate implementation of methods and that it produces valuable information based on its epistemology. External validity is the extent to which the findings can be applied to other situations (Merriam, 1995). Even though the purpose of phenomenological research is to understand in-depth the experiences of a particular group, the study will be useful to the extent that the results are informative about similar situations or for similar groups. For example, this study may inform educational computer use in other social contexts or at Internet cafs in other countries. In qualitative research, â€œvalidity deals with the notion that what you say you have observed is, in fact, what really happenedâ€ (Shank, 2002, p. 92). In phenomenological research, a high level of objectivity is required to produce â€œvaluable knowledge.â€ For example, Husserl (1970) states, â€œan epistemological investigation that can seriously claim to be scientific must satisfy the principle of freedom from suppositions.â€ (p. 263) Thus, several strategies such as disclosure of subjectivity statement, detailed descriptions, member check, and peer review were used to ensure the internal and external validity of the study. Phenomenological Validation In order to ensure validity in terms of phenomenological requirements, I have engaged in a bracketing process. I have acknowledged and set aside all my assumptions
59 and presuppositions from previous encounters or experiences with the phenomenon throughout the study (Ashworth, 1999). First, I wrote a subjectivity statement describing my presuppositions and beliefs regarding the phenomenon in an attempt to acknowledge them. In addition, I present the subjectivity statement in this dissertation along with the findings so that readers can make sense of the results presented with the knowledge of my background. Wolcott (1990) suggests that the researcher should reveal his/her feelings and reactions whenever they are relevant. Merriam (1995) maintains that this enables the reader to put the findings in context, to understand how the data were interpreted. This gives the reader an opportunity to evaluate the study and reach his/her own conclusions. Second, peer reviews were utilized at two stages of the data analysis. At the horizonalization stage, it is essential that every statement made by the participants is treated as having equal value and only and all of the statements relevant to the phenomenon are selected. A colleague was asked to spot check for some of the transcripts and review the selection of relevant statements, after the phenomenon was thoroughly explained to him. There were a few points where he suggested that I add statements to the list of relevant statements, which I added. In addition, there were a few points where we discussed whether or not I should add some statements. These decisions were made after an agreement was reached. There were no points where he suggested that I remove any statements from the relevant list. This colleague ensured that my perception of the relevant statements and according selection of the data does not misrepresent the information.
60 Also, the same colleague was asked to spot check some of the transcripts that were translated into English. He was asked to read the original and the translated statements, and consider if the translations lost or distorted meanings. He made some suggestions for revision and some of the wording was revised based on discussion and agreement. He ensured that I did not cause any misrepresentation of the data due to translations. Both of these forms of peer review were utilized to ensure that the background of the researcher did not distort the findings (Merriam, 1995; Wolcott, 1990). Third, thick descriptions were utilized. Providing the readers with detailed descriptions, and maintaining transparency throughout the study is to enable them to decide how closely their situations match that of this study, and to what extent the findings can be transferred (Wolcott, 1990). I have provided detailed descriptions of the research context, the city the participants live in, the countyâ€™s educational and economic situation, the state of Internet cafs, and background information about the individual participants. This information should enable the readers to understand the context in which the findings of this study were produced. Additional Measures The first additional measure to ensure validity was the use of triangulation. This study used two data sources â€“ background information survey and in-depth interviews. Collecting data from two sources from the same participants enables the researcher to compare the information from both data sources and to eliminate any inconsistencies, which would indicate untruthful data. Second, member checks (Merriam, 1995) were conducted at the beginning of the second and third interviews with participants. Before beginning those interviews, I recapitulated the last interview, and presented my initial interpretations to the participants
61 and posed the question whether these were correct. Before the interviews and throughout data collection, making use of the co-researcher concept (Moustakas, 1994), I reminded the participants to be proactive and correct me whenever there was a misunderstanding. Moreover, the third interview included an extensive session during which I asked for feedback on my interpretations of the first two interviews. On several occasions, the participants corrected my perceptions and reformulated their responses. This process ensured that it is the participantsâ€™ views that are represented rather than my own. Limitations Methodological Limitations Data collection One of the factors that may have limited the results of the study was the limited pool of participants. This study only included participants whose parents approved of their attending Internet cafs, as well as their participation in interviews and receiving compensation. Since this study investigated high school studentsâ€™ experiences, the participant pool consisted of minors for legal purposes. Per IRB requirements, I obtained parental consent from participants who are younger than 18, prior to data collection. This presumes that the parents know that their adolescent child attends Internet cafs since the parental consent included the research purpose and why the adolescent was selected as a participant. This requirement limited participation to those adolescents whose parents approve of their going to Internet cafs. However, it would have been informative to include adolescents who attend Internet cafs without the knowledge of their parents and to explore their experiences as well. Such adolescents could have experiences of activities that would be unapproved by their families, or experiences of lack of support from their parents on their educational activities.
62 Data analysis Another limitation of the study was the need for translation of interview data. The adolescents living in Turkey were very limited in their English speaking skills, and this report is written in English. Thus, the interviews were conducted in Turkish, translated into English, and then analyzed. Some of the details might have been lost due to translation. However, being conscious of this limitation from the onset of the study, I took some measures. First I tried to stick to the participantsâ€™ actual words in translation, sometimes at the expense of a better flowing wording. Second, I had my translations verified by a bilingual peer. Third, I had some committee members read my narratives (textural and structural descriptions) and ask for clarification when needed. Despite such limitations, sometimes translating interview data is the only way research can be conducted. Therefore, it is not uncommon to translate interview data. For example, Kaler (2000) had a Swahili speaker translate the interview data from Swahili to English for her. Nevertheless, she did not consider it a limiting factor of the study. The Researcherâ€™s Subjectivity Unlike other constructionist methods, phenomenology does not take into account the researcherâ€™s subjectivity. Rather, it requires that the researcher present the truth from the participantsâ€™ perspectives, and engage in the bracketing process to do this. Even though I have used member check and peer review to minimize the impact of my subjectivity and my innate perceptions and beliefs on the results of the study, there might be areas in which my subjectivity affected my interpretations. Since this is an individual project, it was not possible to seek a second opinion throughout the study. Therefore, I present to the readers my subjectivity statement in this report, so that they can view the
63 results in light of my perceptions and beliefs that may nonetheless have affected my representation or interpretation of the results. Limitations of the Research Context This study was conducted in Turkey. The economic, political, and cultural factors that education is situated in in Turkey are described in Chapter 3. Since these conditions are distinct from those of the United States, and are certainly not representative of the world, the results of this study are valid only in the context of Turkey. This is not a limitation of the study, since phenomenological studies do not attempt to produce generalizable results, but rather attempt to describe a phenomenon situated in a particular place and time, from a particular perspective. However, conducting the study in Turkey while living in the United States posed some limitations in terms of data analysis. I collected the interview data during a summer in Turkey, and conducted all the analyses in the United States. Thus, I was not able to meet with the participants during the analyses to conduct extensive or regular member checks. While this could have been done by using communication technologies such as email, most participants did not regularly use email, and hence would not respond to messages in a timely manner. Moreover, this type of communication may be a questionable method of reliable data collection from a phenomenological perspective. Thus, the member checks in this study are limited largely to those that were conducted at the beginning of the second and third as well as during the third interviews with each participant.
CHAPTER 4 RESULTS This chapter is a presentation of the results of this study. The analysis process described in Chapter 3 resulted in textural and structural descriptions for each of the six participants, a composite textural description and a composite structural description (representing the group as a whole), as well as a synthesis describing the essence of the experience of educational uses of computers at Internet cafs from the perspective of adolescents in Turkey. As will be seen later, the essence includes four elements. The chapter is structured following this analysis process. Specifically, the textural and structural descriptions from three key informants are presented. A textural description reflects the participantâ€™s voice; it is based on the participantâ€™s statements regarding his/her experiences of the phenomenon. A structural description reflects the researcherâ€™s voice; it is based on my interpretation of the structural elements of the participantâ€™s experience. Then the composite textural and composite structural descriptions are followed by the synthesis and the essence of the phenomenon of adolescentsâ€™ educational uses of computers at Internet cafs. The three key informants are selected based on their experiences relative to that of the group. Six meaning units were identified as â€œshared meaning units,â€ as explained in Chapter 3 (See Appendix C for a list of the shared meaning units.) Mehmetâ€™s experiences included all six of the meaning units. Because he was the only person with six of the shared meaning units, he was selected as representative of the group. Emirâ€™s experiences included four of the shared meaning units. He was the participant with the smallest number of shared meaning units. He was 64
65 selected as being the least representative of the group. The remaining four participants all had five of the six shared meaning units in their experiences. Among them, Aylin was selected as a key informant because she was the most representative of the four. She was one of the three females, one of the three people who are preparing for the university entrance exam, and one of the two people whose focus of study is English (thus most experiences at the computer are directly related to her field) among the remaining four. The textural and structural descriptions from Mehmet, Emir, and Aylin respectively are presented below. I note that all of these descriptions are narratives written by me, based on the participantsâ€™ statements. The quotation marks separate statements directly taken from participantsâ€™ words from the descriptions and interpretations written by me. In the composite descriptions the name in brackets following a participant statement in quotation mark set indicates whose words were quoted. Textural Description of Mehmetâ€™s Experiences Even though Mehmet has been using Internet cafs for 10 years, his experience of the phenomenon of educational uses of computers at Internet cafs has begun only recently. He started going to Internet cafs to â€œplay the game Counter Strike.â€ Then, he turned to the Internet as he got â€œbored of playing Counter Strike.â€ In his experience, playing games was â€œlike a transition period.â€ â€œYou first play games, then you get bored, and move to the Internet.â€ His initial experiences of the phenomenon started when he was going to an Anatolian high school.1 He started using the Internet at Internet cafs to find information in German and to â€œadvanceâ€ his German and to support his German course. 1 Anatolian High Schools are a kind of public schools that use English as the medium of instruction. German is also taught at many of them as a foreign language.
66 Mehmetâ€™s experience of the phenomenon of educational uses of computers at Internet cafs includes several dimensions such as information gathering, information exchange, skills learning, incidental learning, and informal learning. Mehmet believes computers and the Internet to be â€œthe most useful tools in educationâ€ because it would be more time-consuming or even impossible to find the information otherwise that he finds using the Internet. Information gathering is most central to Mehmetâ€™s experience of educational uses of computers at Internet cafs. He searches for, finds, and utilizes information from the Internet. For example, he finds information related to school subjects to do his term paper, to solve various science problems, or to practice foreign languages. Mehmet finds some of these resources on his own â€œby fiddling around.â€ He also collects information about computers on such areas as hardware, software, programming, or package programs. It is â€œcuriosity that drivesâ€ him. When he sees a program that he likes, he wonders how it was written. He opens the code in the programming software and explores it to be able to understand and learn it. Mehmet indicates that he is able to operate many pieces of software, fix computers, set up operating systems, and design web pages or animations. In addition to school and computer related information, Mehmet adds much â€œgeneral cultural knowledgeâ€ to his repertoire of knowledge. He reads novels or other informational documents on the Internet. For example, he found the whole volume of Lord of the Rings online. Mehmet believes one can find information on â€œanything you likeâ€ on the Internet; he does not â€œthink that there is a topic that is not on the Internet, maybe there are a few.â€
67 Information exchange with other people is another way Mehmet experiences the phenomenon of educational uses of computers at Internet cafs. He shares university entrance test preparation problems and solutions with peers on an Internet based forum, and shares programs he wrote on a free-downloads site. For him, information exchange happens not only on the Internet, but also inside the Internet caf. According to Mehmet, people can learn much from each other; even a small child can go to the Internet caf and â€œlearn something.â€ Indeed, he thinks that the Internet caf â€œis craftedâ€ for the purpose of â€œuniting people who understand this business [computers] and bringing them all together.â€ Learning skills is another dimension of Mehmetâ€™s experience of educational uses of computers at the Internet caf. The skill Mehmet learned through his experiences at Internet cafs is social interaction. He used to be a â€œvery anti-social personâ€ who had â€œdifficulty in making friends.â€ He thinks that by going to the Internet caf and helping other people learn programs or showing them how to use search engines he developed his social skills. Mehmet is certain that it is his experience at the Internet caf that helped him overcome his social difficulties. He noticed that he started having friends in school soon after he started using chat at the Internet caf. In addition to information gathering, information exchange, and skills learning, Mehmet experiences incidental learning at the Internet caf. Mehmet thinks his English is very advanced now because the former DOS operating system and many applications today are in English. He learned English â€œwhile playing with those programs.â€ In addition, finding information related to school subjects on the web in English helps develop his English; and typing develops his keyboarding skills.
68 Mehmet believes that he has developed strong computer skills, hence the programs he writes are downloaded by so many people. He has â€œlearned so much on my ownâ€. He used to model other people, but now â€œthere is no one to modelâ€ for him. While other people who use computers at Internet cafs may have played games on the computer, Mehmet â€œchose to fiddle with the computer, to learn.â€ The society is â€œsplit in terms of knowledge, intellect, English, computers, everythingâ€ into hierarchies. Mehmet sees himself â€œin the level of those who know well.â€ He prefers to work with computers rather than being a physical worker, because he believes that in the society those who use computers are the â€œleadersâ€ and others are the lower class people. Computer knowledge has utility for Mehmet. He gained knowledge â€œas if I had studied at a vocational school.â€ With his knowledge, he can find a job, even if he can not, he â€œcan at least open a shop, at least an Internet caf.â€ â€œThere is a future profession for me even if I cannot pass the university entrance exam.â€ The Internet caf provides a comfortable space for Mehmet for educational computer uses. He does not have to share the computer with his siblings or parents. At the Internet caf â€œthere is no one who looks over your shoulder, no one who is looking forward to your leaving the spot.â€ The Internet caf is â€œa second homeâ€ for Mehmet. The Internet caf is very important for Mehmet; it has a â€œlarge placeâ€ in his life. He would feel that â€œsomething is missing if I did not have computers,â€ â€œthere would be a large hole in my life.â€ However, Mehmetâ€™s joy of educational uses of computers is declining â€“ even though they are still the most enjoying activities for him (compared to games and chatting). He is not as interested in the Internet anymore; he is â€œgetting tiredâ€ of it â€œslowly.â€ Even though he enjoys learning new things, sometimes it seems to him
69 that â€œthere is nothing left to learn, wherever I look there are things I know.â€ He does not get â€œas much excitement anymore out of it.â€ Even websites are all alike; in the past always something new would come up. Structural Description of Mehmetâ€™s Experiences The structural elements of Mehmetâ€™s experience are the belief that educational uses are superior to other uses of computers, current and future utility of knowledge as a source of self-confidence, informal education as a dominant form education, dilemma in maintaining both formal and informal education together, and dissatisfaction with lack of further development. Mehmetâ€™s experiences of the phenomenon of educational uses of computers at Internet cafs developed over time, as a result of boredom with playing games. This was an advancement, since uses of computers at the Internet caf form a hierarchy. First, the inexperienced, unelaborated mind wants to play games. Then one learns about more applications, and moves on to the more complicated applications and educational uses of computers. Educational uses are superior to other uses of computers, because they have utility; they are associated with professional work. Thus, those who use computers educationally can assume professional positions and take higher ranks in society. Using computers educationally makes Mehmet a knowledgeable person, and moves him to the higher ranks of the society. His knowledge (particularly of computer applications) gives Mehmet confidence about his future, about his prospects for getting a professional job. He is proud of himself for achieving this superior experience. Upon reflection on his experiences, Mehmet cites computers and the Internet caf as the source of most of his development. He is proud of his success of learning on his own and developing himself. His confidence is also
70 supported by the current utility of his knowledge. At the Internet caf he is someone who is sought after, who helps troubleshooting, or teaches people how to use programs. While he has difficulty in social interactions, the Internet caf is a place where Mehmet feels confident because he is among the most knowledgeable individuals. It is easier for him to initiate, contribute to, and maintain conversations involving computers, as he is confident with his knowledge in this area. The belief that educational uses are superior to other uses of computers is an indication of the value and meaning of education to Mehmet. For him, education has to have a utility, be it to increase your social status, or to make a living. His definition of his experiences of educational uses of computers includes gaining computer literacy, gathering knowledge and applicable skills of hardware and software, learning computer programming, supporting schoolwork, developing social skills, and being a generally more knowledgeable person. He also refers to incidental learning experiences such as developing his English and keyboarding skills. Most of these are computer related skills, and he gained them by using computers at the Internet caf. He attributes most of this knowledge to the efficiency of the Internet in finding information. His definition of education is more closely aligned with the Internet caf than with formal schooling. Mehmet is proud of having developed himself with his own efforts using computers educationally at the Internet caf. He has used the Internet caf environment effectively to develop himself. His experiences at the Internet caf support not only his informal education and self-development, but also contribute to his schoolwork and college preparation. However, this self-education conflicts with his formal schooling. While he appears to be doing well on the self-education front, he is doing badly at school.
71 Also, there were times when he would flee from school to go to the Internet caf. Mehmet has a dilemma of maintaining these tow forms of education. On the one hand the Internet caf helps schoolwork, on the other hand it â€œdistances you from school.â€ Even though Mehmet has been enthusiastic about his educational uses of computers at Internet cafes, his joy is declining. This is similar to his descriptions of how his interest first in games and then in chat declined and eventually died off. The reason for Mehmetâ€™s dissatisfaction is probably that these activities did not provide him with opportunities for the further development he aspired. He also started getting bored with learning from the Internet because there did not seem to be anything new to learn. Mehmet must have reached the limits of his imagination and guidance from others. Textural Description of Emirâ€™s Experiences For Emir, the Internet caf is a place to search for information, satisfy his curiosity, educate himself, cope with personal problems, and consequently develop his self-concept. Emir uses several applications with different purposes at the Internet caf. Not all of them contribute to his success at school, but they help him learn many things. Emir is aware of the impact of using computers at Internet cafs in the ways he does â€“ that is developing and educating himself, making him a learned person. The Internet has more information than other forms of media, and this information is more easily accessible. The Internet enables Emir to find information on the topics that he is interested in even though they may be new topics such as â€œgeneticsâ€ that are not necessarily included in books and other information sources such as encyclopedias he looked at. Otherwise, it is not easy to find information â€œby searching newspaper after newspaper after newspaperâ€ but on the Internet, when you type the search terms, â€œeverything comes up.â€ There is also information about computer skills such as
72 â€œattaching or detaching hardwareâ€ and manipulating a computer without depending on anyone. Before he had access to this information, he â€œbroke the sprockets [of the mouse]. It was a bad experience and an expensive one too.â€ The Internet makes things more accessible and easier to learn from for Emir. He does not read newspapers but he â€œenter[s] news sitesâ€ and receives emails from portals on a variety of topics. For him, the Internet has information on anything. Emir has learned how to â€œmake eggsâ€ for himself, how to â€œlose weightâ€ with diets and exercise when he was overweight, and how to grow a flower â€œthanks to the Internet.â€ The Internet enables Emir to satisfy his curiosity. He looks up â€œwhatever comes to my mindâ€ on the Internet, he looks up the words on billboards, or enters the websites he sees in advertisements â€“ just out of curiosity â€œthanks to google, I call it google father.â€ At the same time, the availability of information on the Internet makes him come up with more questions, sometimes related to schoolwork. He â€œeven researched the reproduction of ants, I was curiousâ€ and watched videos of artificial insemination. These are possible at the Internet caf due to the speed of the Internet. If there were no Internet cafs, Emir could â€œnot find many sites I now use.â€ He could not satisfy his curiosity elsewhere, because â€œwhen I ask, it will not end with one question . . . I will research until the end. The man will be sick, and come to the point of hitting me . . . at least the computer cannot attack me.â€ Emir has blended experiences at the Internet caf; he searches for information, be it about a term paper or to lose weight, he learns computer applications, he plays games, and meets friends. Thus, in his experience education and entertainment occur together. He sees his routine practices such as email management, file management, and discussion
73 board participation as â€œworkâ€ while he sees â€œplay[ing] gamesâ€ and â€œpractice[ing] some online programsâ€ as entertainment. There are some activities that Emir does because he enjoys them, while recognizing them as educationally beneficial â€“ for example, he translates games into Turkish, helps people in chat rooms by showing them the commands they need, learns about hardware and operating systems, and researches future careers. These fun activities helped him learn incidentally. For example, his English vocabulary expanded by translating games and his pronunciation developed by watching CNN online. Emir also writes stories that â€œdevelop my creativityâ€ and shares them in chatrooms with others as a means to publish his work. So, for Emir â€œthe computer enabled my development of my imagination.â€ Apart from their power to support Emirâ€™s education, he thinks that computers have an important role in society. Emir thinks that using computers (in the same ways as he does) can be a solution to the societyâ€™s problems such as â€œurban sprawlâ€ or Turkeyâ€™s difficulties to enter the European Union. He thinks computers will prevail in a decade and â€œeveryone should have used and learned computersâ€ by then. Thatâ€™s why, he is â€œbuilding the groundworkâ€ now. The computers and the Internet caf are very important for Emir. It is â€œlike an organâ€, a â€œlife and death matter.â€ Using computers is a lifestyle for him, â€œprobably I can not do without computers; not one day has passed like this so far.â€ And the Internet caf is an important â€œpart of my lifeâ€, a need. Computers are also important to Emir emotionally, as he has resorted to computers and the Internet caf when he had personal problems. â€œThe computer is like medicine to me. It is the best source of peace for me.â€ Because people â€œlooked down on people with
74 split parentsâ€ he turned to the Internet to make friends. And he spent hours at the computer â€œcomfort[ing]â€ himself. He still sees computers as a means for relief from people and pressures. He feels as if there are â€œtons of people aroundâ€ him, all those people come towards him shouting and yelling â€“ his teachers, his mother, his friends are all mad, and are shouting at him. As soon as he turns the computer on, a â€œcircular wallâ€ rises around him, separating him from others, tearing him apart from the environment. He cannot hear them anymore, they are hitting the glass wall, â€œtrying to make [him] hear their voicesâ€, he sees them but he does not hear them. The computer puts him in a positive mood, as if he is â€œin a different country.â€ If it was not for the computers and the Internet caf, he â€œcould have become a vagabond . . . started smoking, alcohol, and drugs . . . fled from school . . . might have even stabbed someone.â€ Emir believes that he uses computers and Internet cafs in different ways than most other people in Balikesir. He rarely plays games but he uses the Internet a lot. He likes to use computers in ways that educate him, and he wants to become a computer programmer. He thinks there are very few people like him. Those who are interested in using computers, â€œtend to be simpleâ€; there is a â€œmonotonous massâ€ of such people who use computers to only play games. â€œThe computer is not a game tool . . . it has thousands of uses.â€ â€œThose who see it as a game tool are inferior.â€ Emir, likes the fact that he uses computers to learn. â€œAs long as you use the computer you have to learn new things.â€ Computers and the Internet caf â€œdistinguished me from my peers. Now I think I am 25 or so, in terms of intelligenceâ€ owing to
75 computers. If Emir did not use computers educationally at the Internet caf, he would have been an â€œinsecure boyâ€ but computers â€œincreased my self-confidence.â€ Emir feels comfortable at Ephessus2 due to its clientele. â€œVagabondsâ€ cannot come to Ephessus. Those who have a different â€œeconomic status, attire, speaking styleâ€ do not feel welcome at Ephessus; â€œthey feel excludedâ€, they feel as if â€œthe well-dressed clean kids look down on them.â€ There are â€œno bad peopleâ€ at Ephessus; people who regularly go to there are â€œall smart, well-behaved kidsâ€. Structural Description of Emirâ€™s Experiences The structural elements of Emirâ€™s experience of the phenomenon are his belief that computers are absolutely good, that computers make him independent and dependent at the same time, his use of computers as a means to detach himself from the society, using his knowledge as a means to distinguish himself from the mainstream, building self-confidence due to his knowledge, and responding to his curiosity comfortably. Based on Emirâ€™s experiences of the phenomenon, he came to believe that computers are absolute good (only when used in the ways he does). He believes that using and learning from computers relieve him from his problems, make him educated and knowledgeable, make him independent, and keep him away from bad habits. Moreover, educational uses of computers have the capacity to solve social problems such as â€œurban sprawlâ€ or help Turkey join the European Union. Since Emir has positive experiences with computers, and has a strong attachment to them, he built faith in them in solving most problems â€“ if only everyone used them educationally. 2 Ephessus is the pseudonym of the Internet caf Emir attends regularly.
76 Emirâ€™s emotional attachment to educational uses of computers signals a dependency relationship. Using computers on a daily basis, in the ways that he does is a lifestyle for Emir. Moreover, it is a â€œlife and death matterâ€. Being able to get information on his own by using computers makes him a self-sufficient person, independent from others. Computers release him from other dependency relationships (such as being able to make his own food, manipulate his own computer, manage his diet and body, asking questions to Google reduces his need for his parents, brother, and friends respectively). At the same time, he becomes dependent on computers themselves. Now he cannot do without computers, because he has built a reality online. He indicates that if it were not for his use of computers, he would have gained addictions such as smoking, drinking, or consuming drugs. Computers seem to prevent him from other addictions, but he is addicted to computers now. As he becomes more dependent on computers and independent from others, he is detaching himself from society. He built a reality online by carrying out most of his daily activities on the computer or the Internet such as reading newspapers, growing a plant, entering discussions with friends, and writing. He uses the metaphor of a glass wall to describe how using computers in the ways he does, separates himself from his social environment. He lives in it without being integrated in it. Once he is at the computer, he does not care what happens outside of his world, he ignores the rest of the world, and he feels as if he is â€œin a different country.â€ This is also visible in the physical space he selects to use computers. At Ephessus, he always sits in the small room (the size of a den with 3 computers) and puts his headphones on, because he does not want to be in crowds, he wants to be alone with the computer.
77 His detachment from society can be explained by his desires to distinguish himself from the mainstream. Emir believes that he uses computers very differently from most other people. According to his account, using computers in several different and creative ways rather than just playing games and aspiring to become a programmer are two things that distinguish him from the masses. Those mainstream people, who only play games at the computer are â€œsimpleâ€ and â€œinferior.â€ Emir feels that he is more knowledgeable and intelligent than his peers. He wants to be the leader, not a follower. For example, he translates games for public use, he serves as a wizard in chatrooms to show people commands they do not know, and wants to become a programmer because programmers are needed in Turkey. Emir believes that computers made him a knowledgeable and intellectual person. His reflection on his knowledge gives him self-confidence, both because he does not need others and because others need him. He says that if he did not have these experiences at the Internet caf, he would have become an â€œinsecure person.â€ However, increasing his knowledge in many areas at the Internet caf helped him develop a strong self-esteem and self-confidence. Emir considers the Internet a good friend because he can ask the many questions on his mind to the Internet, and it will always answer. He is very curious and for him every answer will spark another question. He does not have to hesitate if the computer will get mad at him for asking so many questions; or he does not have to be concerned whether or not his questions are appropriate. He can even ask questions that are intimate or sensitive such as losing weight or reproduction.
78 Textural Description of Aylinâ€™s Experiences Aylinâ€™s experiences of the phenomenon of educational uses of computers at Internet cafs date back to the days when she played computer games five years ago. She started out â€œsuperficially.â€ She would use the games she played as a way to develop her English and would chat with foreigners in multiplayer games. Then she learned about the Internet and began to seek information more actively, which is now at the center of her experience of the phenomenon. She used to ask herself â€œhow can I find different websites on this topic? I would type www but did not know what next . . . Then a friend of mine suggested search engines to me.â€ Aylin thinks â€œeverything is educationalâ€ for her because she is a student. For her, learning new content, developing computer literacy, and emotional development constitute educational uses of computers. Aylinâ€™s experiences of educational uses of computers at Internet cafs consist mainly of gathering information in various areas through the Internet and developing computer literacy. Aylin uses the Internet to collect information on culture, foreign languages, careers, certain school subjects such as history, and practical topics such as nutrition. Mainly, she uses newspapers and authentic web pages to learn about other cultures. Computers and the Internet are very enabling because they make information search and access to other contexts and cultures very easy. One changes her worldview and thoughts through such experiences as seeing in pictures how â€œpeople in Africa are starving.â€ Educational experiences are â€œmaturation in every senseâ€. The Internet enables one to learn not only the facts but also the culture these facts are embedded in. For example, she likes to read comics in English because they â€œreflect the culture, the signs, the ways of communicatingâ€ and the â€œconceptions of humorâ€ a society has. Aylin prefers to read
79 foreign newspapers about foreign countries since the â€œoriginal sounds more accurate to me.â€ The Internet helps Aylin â€œreach the cultural richness from all over the worldâ€, thus enabling her to develop cultural awareness and attitudes about her own culture. In addition, she has developed computer literacy both purposefully and incidentally as she used computers at the Internet caf. She practiced programs like word processors, spreadsheets, and image editing software. Aylin thinks it is easy to learn them because computers are easy to use once one knows the basics. She is learning these things because she sees utility in them; in case she may need to use them in the future. She wants to be a person â€œwho is good at computersâ€ because it will benefit every area of her life, including her profession. â€œI just need to learn and it will help.â€ Aylin also learns about foreign languages, i.e., English on the Internet. It is very convenient to learn English while you are browsing the Internet, because â€œyou can find English in any form whenever you like on the Internet.â€ Since Aylinâ€™s area of study is English, she uses the Internet â€œautomatically.â€ â€œEnglish and the Internet, they are very close to each other.â€ For example, browsing web pages that are in English helps her enhance her vocabulary. For Aylin, not only browsing web pages but also other activities such as emailing and chatting with foreign pals help her develop her English. Also, she uses the Internet to collect information about careers and professions. Since she is interested in becoming a tourist guide, she collects information about the procedures to become just that. She also collects information about the places she would like to travel using the Internet, so it helps professionally in two forms. In addition, she learns on the Internet about such areas as poetry, literature, and history using search engines. On the Internet, there is â€œcontinuous learning, it never stops.â€ In addition to
80 these matters, Aylin learns about topics of practical nature. She found information about diets on the Internet, which she could not find in the libraries accessible to her. Using computers educationally at the Internet caf is very important for Aylin. It is â€œlike a part of my lifeâ€. Due to the Internet, she becomes a knowledgeable person, and â€œyou can have a say everywhere as long as you have knowledge.â€ The Internet caf is â€œa place like schoolâ€, another institution of education. However, â€œunlike at school, there is no one to tell you you are to learn this, you are to do thatâ€. Instead the Internet caf enables one to choose an alternative education, as opposed to learning what â€œa teacher imposes on you at schoolâ€. Aylin learned to teach herself because â€œthere will not always be someone to teachâ€ her. Structural Description of Aylinâ€™s Experiences The structural elements of Aylinâ€™s experience are learning as an investment for the future, learning to become a lifelong learner, educational uses as maturation, and knowledge as self-confidence. Aylinâ€™s experiences of educational uses of computers at the Internet caf are investments for the future. In addition to mastering the basics in order to be able to use computers for her needs, she purposefully practiced some generic programs such as word processors, spreadsheets, and image editors. She believes she will need these skills in the future. Moreover, she uses the Internet to prepare for the university entrance exam, to develop her English skills, to search career options, to collect information on becoming a tourist guide â€“ skills for her future. As she grows up, she is looking for ways to choose a career path, and make herself competitive in the job market, as do many others in a scarce job market.
81 As Aylin is getting ready to graduate from high school, she is taking more responsibility of her education. Thus she uses the affordance of the Internet to learn on her own at Internet cafs. She considers the Internet to be another institution of education, yet without a dictated curriculum. She seems to enjoy the fact that she can choose for herself what to learn since she knows her interests well. This process of learning outside of the school is helping her take on the university student lifestyle, in which one has the right to choose what to study and more responsibility for oneâ€™s own learning. She is learning to become a lifelong learner. Aylinâ€™s experience of learning to become a lifelong learner is one of the areas of her â€œmaturationâ€. She is in a stage of transition from childhood to adulthood. Her experiences at the Internet caf help this process in two forms. First, becoming a knowledgeable person who can express an opinion in public on many matters makes her feel like an adult. Second, this process of giving direction to her development enables her to fulfill her aspirations to build an identity as a prospective teacher, tourist guide in-development, a person who is â€œgood at computersâ€, a person with cultural knowledge and understanding. Being able to meet her aspirations increases Aylinâ€™s self-confidence. She believes that the more knowledge one has, the more powerful one is. Aylin feels this power due to the knowledge and skills she has gained through using computers and the Internet at the Internet caf (computer skills, English skills, knowledge of history and literature, knowledge of other cultures and places, knowledge of current events) as well as her confidence in being able to add to this repertoire of knowledge whenever she wants to do so. She feels confident not only because of the utility of this knowledge in securing
82 employment, but also because of the ability of this knowledge in gaining respect in society. Developing her adult identity is likely the reason why her experiences of the phenomenon of educational uses of computers at the Internet caf are very important for Aylin. She would not have been able to develop herself in her areas of interest (which are also evolving and becoming more refined as a consequence of using the Internet) without computers and the Internet. Rather she would be limited to the knowledge base in her immediate environment. Composite Textural Description As explained in detail in Chapter 3, the composite textural description is a combination of all six of the individual textural descriptions across the shared meaning units and reflects the experiences of the group as a whole. Adolescentsâ€™ experiences of educational uses of computers at Internet cafs follow playing games on the computer. They first go to the Internet caf to play video games, which they have been used to through video game tools. However, the Internet caf environment allows them to learn about other applications on the computer, and provides several ways to use them. Some learn it by aspiring to model adults at the Internet caf, some learn it from physical friends at the Internet caf, some learn it from online friends in chat rooms when they show each other what they did, and some learn it just by playing around because they were bored of playing games. Once they learn about all the possibilities, they do not go back to playing games regularly anymore. Earlier they were â€œnot very knowledgeableâ€ [Deniz]. Playing games is lower in the hierarchy of uses of computers that adolescents use. In fact, this hierarchical evaluation of different uses of computes at Internet cafs appears to be built on value and time. For example, playing games is the earliest and the least valuable experience. The next thing adolescents usually
83 learn about is the Internet â€“chat rooms, email, browsing the web, and search engines. One of the things adolescents are amazed about is the concept of a search engine because when one types in a keyword, â€œeverything comes upâ€ [Emir]. They believe that there is no reality or truth beyond what can be found on a search engine. They equate the Internet to truth. â€œYou can search anything on [google], you will find whatever you search forâ€ [Amber]. Search engines make the search for information very convenient and efficient. â€œYou just go, go to the Internet, and can find the information you like in the shortest amount of timeâ€ [Leyla]. Moreover, the Internet is versatile; it includes various forms of information (visual, textual etc.). â€œBooks published a while ago donâ€™t keep their currency, but the Internet is up-to-dateâ€ [Deniz]. The â€˜newâ€™ information is accessible in a click at any corner, given that there are many Internet cafs in Balikesir now. Speaking of current topics, you can find information real time using â€œlast minute newsâ€ [Amber]. It is this ease that makes adolescents proactively use the Internet to find more information. They can read newspapers on the Internet even if they did not do so on paper, they can grow virtual plants while they did not grow plants in a pot. They can learn to cook from the Internet even if they did not read a recipe book, or watched their mother cook. It is very convenient to collect this variety of information on the Internet rather than â€œlose time searching it in a libraryâ€ [Deniz]. Most learning occurs incidentally at the Internet caf. It does not occur when the adolescent goes to the Internet caf with the purpose of learning a particular piece of information, or to do a certain assignment. The exception is Deniz, who frequently practices software applications at the Internet caf or searches for tutorials on the Internet
84 in order to study his schoolwork, which is about computers. Adolescentsâ€™ primary motives to use computers at the Internet caf are usually different from learning. For example, growing plants on the Internet and making web pages are both entertaining to Amber. At the same time they are educational because the former enables Amberâ€™s emotional development, and the latter helps her develop her computer skills. A second example is Leyla, who likes to listen to rap music, and collects information about rap albums, bands, new songs and lyrics while at the same time learning about the African American culture that is transmitted through this form of art. Learning English while browsing web pages is the second most common form of incidental learning. It is particularly important to adolescents who study English and would like to continue doing so in college. For them, even chatting on the Internet, using message boards, and emailing in English are directly related to their studies. These activities also enhance their Turkish skills if they engage in these in Turkish, like Amber does. Forums help reading and writing, particularly composition. The most common form of incidental learning is developing computer skills from the operating system, to programming skills, from multimedia design, to hardware and keyboarding skills. Adolescents can learn on the Internet without any supervision, control, or dictated curriculum. The Internet caf also allows learning very conveniently and quicklyâ€“ on various topics, in various presentation forms. It is a place for learning, just like school. However, it allows for â€œindividual choiceâ€, it gives adolescents the option to choose what, when, and how to learn. Adolescents make use of this ability for self-control of learning, since their perceptions of what is useful may not overlap with that of authorities. For example, Amber learns biology and chemistry through understanding how plants
85 grow, and develops emotionally through caring and being responsible for a plant (without actually risking the life of one) due to her virtual flower. Her father considers it as â€œwasting timeâ€; however, at the Internet caf adolescents have the full right to decide what they should do, since they are eligible customers â€“ not family members, children, or students. Some adolescents do like school subjects but do not find them satisfactory. Since they are limited by the capacity and resources of their school, they look for other opportunities of learning that allow them to cross the boundaries of physical and local space. Luckily, â€œthere are endless opportunities on the Internet.â€ [Deniz] Others are content with their learning at the Internet caf, but would not go the extra mile to use Internet cafs to do schoolwork. One can learn general cultural knowledge on the Internet. It refers to public knowledge, intellect, and knowledge about the world and how things work, that is accumulated through exposure to different cultures, interactions, resources, and experiences over time, rather than through planned and structured effort. The Internet is a collection of resources from the entire world, and represents â€œthe cultural richness from all over the worldâ€ [Aylin]. Thus, it enables one to learn not only facts from it, but also the culture it is embedded in. To give an example, comics reflect the conceptions of culture, and the signs, the innate ways of communicating. One can learn about current events in the world from multiple sources, make friends on the Internet and pick their brains, thus being able to better think critically and synthesize information. For example both Amber and Deniz are interested in reading about the current wars and understanding international relations and reasons behind these wars, and they use multiple news sources
86 on the Internet to learn about these topics. Moreover, interacting with other people on the Internet via chat rooms, forums, and email allows adolescents to develop social skills, manners, and democratic participation, which are also important pieces of general cultural knowledge. Using computers at the Internet caf educationally is important for adolescents for several reasons. It enables them to not have a â€œmonotonousâ€ life [Amber, Emir], make a career with computers [Deniz], find career information [Aylin, Leyla], and develop social skills [Mehmet]. Without the educational activities at Internet cafs something would be missing in adolescentsâ€™ lives. It is as important as school, sometimes more important than school. The activities on the Internet such as email management, discussion board participation, downloading files, managing a personal calendar become routine acts for some, and they cannot live without the Internet. Computers and the Internet caf constitute a lifestyle, a need, a habit, or an addiction. Composite Structural Description and the Essence of the Experience As explained in detail in Chapter 3, the composite structural description is a combination of all six of the individual structural descriptions across the shared meaning units and reflects the experiences of the group as a whole. There are four structural elements of the experience, which derive from the six shared meaning units (See Table 1 in Appendix C for a tabulation of meaning units and elements of the essence). First, educational use of computers is a result of advancement from playing games to activities with future utility. Second, the efficiency of accessing information on the Internet helps adolescents to become more knowledgeable. This knowledge, which usually takes the form of general cultural knowledge, has current utility in that it contributes to their self-confidence. Third, incidental learning experiences at the Internet caf, which are very
87 different from learning at school, allow adolescents to control their own learning. Finally, adolescents adopt educational uses of computers as a lifestyle. The structural elements of the experience are the essential characteristics of educational uses of computers at Internet cafs from the perspective of these Turkish adolescent males and females. The essential characteristics of the experience constitute the essence of the experience of educational uses of computers at Internet cafs. Advancement toward Educational Uses Educational use of computers is a result of advancement from playing games to activities with future utility. This transition is part of an adolescentâ€™s maturation. Educational uses of computers at the Internet caf have a typical background. The adolescent first plays games, then learns about other activities, and finally starts using computers educationally at the Internet caf. The Internet caf allows them to see and meet people with varying degrees of knowledge about computers and applications. With the help of others, the novice game player becomes an educational computer user, and becomes a more knowledgeable other for newcomers. Once they learn the educational uses, they do not play games anymore. Games are â€œsuperficialâ€, they are low in their hierarchy of uses of computers. It is the inexperienced, unelaborated mind that wastes computers by only playing games, while there are many opportunities to learn from computers. Educational uses are higher in the hierarchy because they have utility; they give one knowledge that can be used (maybe in a white-collar job). Knowledge as Source of Self-Confidence Adolescents consider finding information on the Internet very easy and convenient. The Internet makes it possible to collect a wide variety of information in a short period of time due to the efficiency of search engines. This ease in turn makes adolescents more
88 interested in collecting information. The wide range of information available on the Internet allows adolescents to accumulate general cultural knowledge about the world, facts, general knowledge of history, geography, and science through sustained use of the Internet that can otherwise be gained over time by reading books, watching movies, and interacting with other people. While this may be a proxy to becoming a knowledgeable person, it may also be the beginning of a cycle of lifelong learning. Being a knowledgeable person who can talk about a wide range of topics has immediate utility in social situations for adolescents. They can participate in conversations and display their knowledge. This way, they can distinguish themselves from their peers and increase their self-confidence in conversations with peers and adults. Self-Control of Learning Most of the experiences of educational uses of computers at the Internet caf are characterized by incidental learning, learning that does not take place with a purpose and structure. Adolescents do the activities that interest them, but at the same time they have opportunities to learn from those activities. Incidental learning can sometimes be as valuable as schooling. For example, computer or foreign language skills are valued in society regardless of where they are earned. Adolescents must realize the value of informal learning at the Internet caf, since they continue to do the activities they enjoy, but do not use the Internet caf for schoolwork. They prefer informal learning to formal learning because the former gives them control. The authority of parents and school do not apply to the Internet caf. There is information also at the Internet caf; and one can reach it freely, without submitting to any authority. By being in charge of their learning and making decisions regarding their education, they learn to learn on their own. Having
89 autonomy on their education may be an element of adolescentsâ€™ growing up and taking charge of some aspects of their lives. Educational Uses as Lifestyle The educational uses of computers at the Internet caf constitute a lifestyle for adolescents. Adolescents would like to be and be known as individuals who use computers regularly in ways that educate and develop themselves, who (appear as) experts in using computers and accessing knowledge, who use their free time at the Internet caf, who know a lot due to using computers, and who have varied interests. Therefore, they use the Internet caf and their experiences at the Internet caf as means for building their identity. Not only do they characterize themselves as Internet caf users or educational users, but also they integrate these uses into their lives. For some, this association with the Internet caf goes as far as a need, dependency, or addiction. Therefore, going to the Internet caf and using computers in educational ways are very important for them. They have carried so many of their functions on to their Internet caf experience that it is a major part of their lives. The Internet caf is an organ; without it they would be disabled. The Essence of the Experience According to adolescents, educational uses of computers are those that have current and future utility. They have current utility because they allow adolescents to come across as knowledgeable people in social situations; they have future utility because using computers well allows one to get a job that requires using computers (i.e., white-collar) and/or respect from the society. Both of these utilities of educational uses of computers give adolescents confidence â€“ confidence about themselves and confidence regarding
90 their future. In fact, they support their self-confidence by adopting educational uses of computers at Internet cafs as a lifestyle providing them with an identity. Variation in Participantsâ€™ Experiences This study focused on the common experiences of adolescents, per the phenomenological framework that seeks common and universal themes in individualsâ€™ experiences. In addition to the common experiences, the individual experiences of three key informants are presented. However, the whole spectrum of experiences of the participants interviewed is not reflected in that presentation. The aspects of the adolescentsâ€™ experiences that are not represented in the results are summarized below. Amber and Leylaâ€™s experiences of educational uses of computers were marked by a need for progress. They wanted to make progress in their lives and used computers and the Internet caf as tools towards this purpose. The tools were helpful since they allowed them to increase their knowledge in general and develop expertise in computer skills. Modeling was central to Denizâ€™s experiences of educational uses of computers at the Internet caf. After he became an Internet caf user, he began observing computer experts. He aspired not only their skills, but also their lifestyles. He went so far as to make his career choices after his computer expert role models. Both Leyla and Denizâ€™s imagination and aspirations were beyond their immediate environment in Balikesir. Leyla wanted to study abroad and Deniz wanted to live in a bigger city, like Istanbul, where there were more opportunities to learn for a prospective computer programmer. Both used the Internet to access information they could not in their immediate physical environment, which they were dissatisfied with. Thus, they used the Internet to go beyond the physical limits they were bounded by. Leyla also used the Internet and NBA basketball games to learn more about how to play basketball, how to train, and the
91 lifestyles of NBA basketball players. She also applied that information in her own life, thus supporting her physical development. Finally, Amber used an online organization tool and calendar to supplement her memory as well as to support her organization skills. She made it a routine for herself to stop by at the Internet caf everyday before going to school, and thus effectively integrated the Internet caf into her life. Summary The results reveal that the process of the development of educational computer users follows a similar pattern for adolescents, which can be used to promote educational uses of computers at Internet cafes. Educational uses of computers at Internet cafs allow adolescents to gain a large body of knowledge on a wide range of topics, which increases their self-confidence, thus contributing to their development as young individuals. While adolescents have incidental learning experiences, they do not like to attend to schoolwork at the Internet caf. This discrepancy in motivation to learn raises questions about authority structures in formal and informal learning environments. Adolescents adopted educational uses of computers a lifestyle. This fact has implications regarding adolescentsâ€™ identity development.
CHAPTER 5 DISCUSSION This dissertation investigates adolescentsâ€™ experiences of educational uses of computers at Internet cafs. Based on the studied participantsâ€™ experiences in Balikesir, Turkey in the summer of 2004, the essence of the experience of educational uses of computers at Internet cafs includes four elements. These four elements are (1) advancement toward educational uses, (2) knowledge as a source of self-confidence, (3) self-control of learning, and (4) educational uses of computers as lifestyle. The first element of the essence, the advancement toward educational uses of computers, means that educational uses develop from playing games through a process of learning about different uses of computers with the help of others at the Internet caf. The Internet caf makes the initial trying of the experience attractive due to its similarities to video game places, and potentially facilitates the transfer of knowledge from playing games to educational uses of computers. Also, Internet cafs support the advancement of adolescents from playing games to educational uses of computers by providing a setting that enables them to interact with more knowledgeable people. At the same time, however, the knowledge that can be gained at the Internet caf from others is limited. Moreover, it is unclear why not everyone who has the same means at the Internet caf becomes an educational computer user; this brings up the question of other factors that facilitate the development of educational uses of computers. The second element of the essence, knowledge as a source of self-confidence, means that adolescents feel confident due to the knowledge they gain through their 92
93 experiences at the Internet caf. They use the Internet to search for and learn information on a variety of topics, and that they do so efficiently in a short period of time; thus feeling to have become knowledgeable individuals. This element implies that adolescents learn and increase their desire to learn through Internet searches, which leads to a cycle of continuous learning, and initiates lifelong learning for them. As a result of this process adolescents feel confident about themselves for being knowledgeable and distinct from their peers. However, such quick accumulation of knowledge raises concerns regarding the nature of that knowledge (e.g., memorization of facts vs. conceptual understanding). It is advised for future research to explore this question. Also, it is possible that adolescents take the Internet as the absolute source of truth and information, and look for no reality beyond it. This element also brings about the potential risk of adolescentsâ€™ encountering undesirable content on the Internet, which they may also take as truth rather than questioning it or subjecting it to their value judgments. This is a concern regarding Internet use at Internet cafs. The third element of the essence, self-control of learning, means that adolescents are interested in their incidental learning activities at the Internet caf, and take pleasure in being in charge of their own learning. Internet cafs, by giving adolescents autonomy regarding their own learning, may promote their motivation to learn in their areas of choice. However, while adolescents are interested in their incidental learning activities at the Internet caf, they would not like to do schoolwork at the Internet caf. This discrepancy raises the question of why adolescents, who are otherwise motivated to learn, are not motivated to do schoolwork at the Internet caf.
94 The fourth element of the essence, educational uses of computers as a lifestyle, means that adolescents like to be associated with Internet cafs and to be defined as educational computer users. This implies that, adolescents use their experiences at the Internet caf to develop their identities. The implications presented above contain benefits, concerns, and suggestions for future research. Thus, they are organized under these categories and discussed in further detail below. (See Table 1 in Appendix C for an overview of the elements of the essence and implications.) Implications Benefits of Using Internet Cafs Based on the results of this study, adolescentsâ€™ experiences of educational uses of computers at Internet cafs included many dimensions that would be considered benefits of using Internet cafs by educators or others concerned with the education of adolescents. These benefits are (1) potentially facilitating transfer by providing a familiar atmosphere, (2) supporting the advancement of computer use, (3) initiating lifelong learning, (4) promoting motivation to learn, and (5) fostering adolescent development. These benefits adolescents gain by using computers educationally at Internet cafs suggest that Internet cafs and adolescents who attend them would merit support by families and educational administrators. Potentially facilitating transfer by providing a familiar atmosphere The target group of this study, adolescents, witnessed the emergence of Internet cafs in Turkey. Before Internet cafs opened, they used to go to video game places or play games in their homes on Nintendos, Ataris, or Playstations. Therefore, when Internet cafs first emerged, adolescents were attracted very easily to them. They were familiar
95 with the environment and with playing games on a machine. The machines were different, but it was not difficult for them to learn the basics of operating a computer in order to play video games. The results indicate that educational uses of computers at Internet cafs develop after playing games at the Internet caf. Educational uses result from a process of learning and expansion of vision. This transition is not difficult for adolescents since they learn the basics of computer literacy though playing games. They might transfer their knowledge of video games to computer literacy, and that of computer literacy to educational computer uses. As Bransford, Brown, and Cocking (1999) maintain, transfer is a function of the overlap between the original and the novel domains of learning. In other words, people learn domains that are similar to what they already know more easily. This is consistent with Piagetâ€™s (1954) theory of learning, in which he argues that individuals can only learn what is not too distant from their current schemas, as information too different from current schemas is likely not to be perceived. Thus, learning a similar or familiar situation is easier than learning a concept that is completely alien. From this perspective, Internet cafs, by providing a familiar atmosphere, attract adolescents to try using computers and to develop the basic skills. Consequently, Internet cafs might facilitate the transfer of knowledge from video games to educational computer uses. Therefore, they are potentially beneficial to adolescents in learning to use computers educationally. Supporting the advancement of computer use The results imply that educational uses of computers take place after a process of transition from playing games at the Internet caf. This transition involves learning about the applications and potential uses of computers in addition to playing games. Expanding
96 their vision regarding the uses of computers is a first step to learning other applications, and thus using computers for educational purposes. Indeed, the definitions of education the adolescents in this study (who use computers educationally) provided were rather extensive and sophisticated. According to those adolescents, education includes content learning or school subjects, emotional development, physical development, learning values, maturation, learning about careers, self-development in skills such as computer or language skills, multicultural awareness, and expanding extracurricular interests. While this extensive definition of education does not seem typical, it is consistent with their practices of computer use at Internet cafs. It is not clear whether their sophisticated definition of education led to their educational uses of computers at the Internet caf, or vice versa. It is possible that they develop simultaneously. Nevertheless, the definition of education provided by these adolescents indicates a broad vision of using computers, which may lead to their more sophisticated educational uses. Furthermore, adolescents formulated the uses of computers as a hierarchy, and placed educational uses at the top of the hierarchy while they placed games at the bottom. Using email and chat followed playing games. According to adolescents, the process of transition from games to educational uses of computers constitutes advancement and maturation. In this advancement, learning about other applications, and learning other applications are two key stages. Internet cafs facilitate these two stages by housing novices and expert computer users together. It also provides role models for novices to aspire to become. The Internet caf allows access to â€œmore capable peer[s]â€ (Vygotsky, 1978, p. 86) who inform and scaffold the novice computer user. Novices improve their
97 skills and gradually become experts with the help of more knowledgeable others at Internet cafs. This process of modeling and learning in a social setting can best be explained by Legitimate Peripheral Participation, a process by which novices or newcomers become part of a community of practice. According to Lave and Wenger (1991), through legitimate peripheral participation newcomers to a community of practitioners master knowledge and skills by moving gradually from peripheral participation in the sociocultural activities of a community of practice to a more central participation in them. At Internet cafs, this process is to move from being a game player towards a computer expert and educational computer user who teaches others. Therefore, the benefit of Internet cafs is not limited to providing access to computers, but includes housing a community of computer users that range from novices to experts, which enables information exchange. The same would tend not to be available, for example, at a public library where people use computers in isolation. Even though at a library there is someone to ask questions to about how to access information, expanding oneâ€™s visions is only possible through sustained participation in a community. Initiating lifelong learning Adolescents take pleasure in searching for information and learning from the Internet. They believe they become knowledgeable individuals through this process, which gives them confidence. The motive they cite for doing so is their innate curiosity. With the willingness of the Internet to answer their questions promptly, their curiosity is satisfied, but at the same time strengthened. Upon reflection on their experiences, adolescents take pride in becoming knowledgeable individuals. Therefore, they want to search for more; their curiosity increases. The Internet opens up a cycle of learning and desire to learn. This self-feeding process can be explained by the concept of continuity, in
98 which â€œevery experience affects for better or worse the attitudes which help decide the quality of further experiences, by setting up certain preference and aversionâ€ (Dewey, 1938, pp. 29-30). Dewey explains that continuity is a feature of learning that promotes lifelong learning. When learning and the desire to learn feed each other continuously, this process leads to lifelong learning. From this perspective, adolescentsâ€™ educational uses of computers at the Internet cafs are an investment to the future in addition to their immediate benefits. Promoting motivation to learn Most of what is learned at the Internet caf is incidental, not planned or purposeful. Adolescents do not necessarily learn everything at the Internet caf with the purpose of educating themselves or learning about a certain topic. Rather, they go to Internet cafs to entertain themselves, and simultaneously learn, too. They do not like to do school related work at the Internet caf. Even though they enjoy learning a broad range of topics, which sometimes includes topics in the curriculum, they do not have an interest in merging the Internet caf with schoolwork or assignments. This simultaneous existence of adolescentsâ€™ desire to learn and lack of desire to do schoolwork raises a question of motivation. What is the difference between school and Internet caf that leads to this discrepancy in adolescentsâ€™ desires to learn? The definition of learning by Reed & Loughran (1984) provided earlier in this dissertation makes clear that only part of learning is the result of formal education. In fact, Illich (1971) states that â€œmost learning happens casually, and even most intentional learning is not the result of programmed instructionâ€ (p. 12). He points out that learning a first language, learning a foreign language, and even fluency in reading happen more often than not through extracurricular activities. In light of this argument, learning at the
99 Internet caf appears to be a more natural form of learning than formal learning, and thus adolescents may be naturally motivated to learn at the Internet caf. Furthermore, according to Dewey (1938), collateral learning is more important than learning isolated subjects. He states, â€œPerhaps, the greatest of all pedagogical fallacies is the notion that a person learns only the particular thing he is studying at the time. Collateral learning in the way of formation of enduring attitudes, of likes and dislikes, may be and often is much more important than the spelling lesson or lesson in geography or history that is learnedâ€ (Dewey, 1938, p. 49). I argue that the spontaneous nature of learning as one is engaged in an activity at the Internet caf is exactly what makes it more interesting than learning a predetermined topic with purpose at a scheduled time. This may be one of the reasons why adolescents are more motivated in incidental or collateral learning, but not in studying school subjects at the Internet caf or at school. Also, according to Farmer (2005), schools sometimes do not allow students to use the programs that they enjoy using most, and therefore, adolescents may want to use their opportunities at the Internet caf to use the programs they wish to freely, and do academic work at school. The findings of this study have implications, in light of literature on student engagement, on how to use computers in the classroom in a way that increases student motivation. Students are more engaged when computer applications are seamlessly integrated into the class, there is focus on exploration, and activities are individualized (Becker, 2000; Sandholtz et al., 1997). These ways of integrating computers into classroom activities are similar to those that students would experience when using computers independently, for example at an Internet caf. Therefore, classroom uses of
100 technology should gather clues from the ways students voluntarily use computers and what motivates them intrinsically. According to adolescents, the Internet caf gives them the ability to choose, determine for themselves what to learn, and control their learning and development. This ability to control their own learning gives them a feeling of growing up, maturation, and freedom â€“ being free from any authority of knowledge. This is also visible in adolescentsâ€™ mention of education or school. They refer both to the Internet caf and to school as one of multiple channels to learn from. They assert that school is mistakenly seen as the single institution for education, and that self-education is as important as or more important than going to school. It may be the fact that the Internet caf affords learning without submitting to any authority that makes it a preferred learning environment for adolescents. Fostering adolescent development Adolescents have positive feelings regarding their lifestyle to learn at the Internet caf and the resulting knowledge they gain. First, adolescents like to be associated with the phenomenon of educational uses of computers at Internet cafs. Particularly, they describe themselves as people who use computers educationally at Internet cafs, as opposed to as one of the mainstream computer users at Internet cafs. They describe how strongly they are attached to computers and how they could not perform certain functions without computers. These strong feelings toward a lifestyle of educational uses of computers may indicate that this phenomenon is used by adolescents to construct their sense of identity. These indications are consistent with the findings of Turkle (1984) regarding adolescentsâ€™ affiliation with computers. Turkle argues that for adolescents being known as a computer person, a certain kind of computer user, or even having an
101 affiliation with the location [Internet caf] may be used as a means for establishing identity. She explains: Adolescents use many different kinds of materials to construct their sense of identity. They use their relationships with clothing, with records, with causes. There is an obvious way in which computers can become part of this process: They can become a way of life. Some young people start to see themselves and are seen by others as â€œcomputer people,â€ experts at the technical aspects of computation. They spend most of their time programming computers, and a computer center or a computer club can become the focus of their social life. But most adolescents donâ€™t take this route. They integrate their computer experience into their developing identities in ways that have nothing to do with becoming computer experts (Turkle, 1984, p. 138) For adolescents, being a knowledgeable person distinguishes them from others who do not use computers, and from those who use computers only to play games or to chat. They feel that educational uses of computers made them more prestigious, sophisticated, exceptional, distinguished, mature, superior, and in the upper levels of society. These feelings contribute to their identity development. When one becomes knowledgeable in certain domains, for example in computer applications, he/she builds social connections since he/she is needed by others to help and answer questions. This in turn makes them feel self-confident, secure, and proud. Being wanted or needed by other people due to their rare skills and being accepted in social circles due to their ability to talk about current events wisely make them feel comfortable and self-confident. They also feel self-confident due to having specialized knowledge such as programming skills or knowledge and knowledge of computer hardware, which have much utility and economic value. That makes them feel more secure about the future and thus confident. Moreover, having accomplished most of this on their own makes them feel proud of themselves. In short, adolescents develop self-confidence, identity, and other positive feelings about themselves due to their experiences at the Internet caf. These findings are consistent
102 with those of Cradler and colleagues (Cradler, 1994; Cradler & Bridgforth, 1996), who indicate that computer use increases confidence for adolescents. Concerns Regarding Adolescentsâ€™ Uses of Internet Cafs In addition to the benefits Internet cafs provide, there are some concerns regarding adolescentsâ€™ use (and educational use) of computers at Internet cafs. These are (1) being locally limited, (2) leading to misconceptions about reality and knowledge, (3) enabling access to potentially undesirable content, and (4) fostering knowledge of questionable nature. Educators and decision makers about Internet cafs should take these concerns into consideration in discussions about adolescents and Internet cafs. Being locally limited Internet cafs provide an environment in which adolescents can meet with and learn from more advanced computer users, expanding their visions of educational computer uses. However, the body of knowledge available in this form is limited to the level of its customers, the local knowledge. Given further direction and supervision, some adolescents would be able to do and interested in further learning and development. However, eventually these interested adolescents may become the most knowledgeable individuals at their Internet caf, and not have the opportunity to further benefit from the knowledge at the Internet caf. The Internet caf is the only alternative to gain such information for most users, but Internet cafs as businesses are not interested in adolescentsâ€™ education and development. While some adolescents know and implement ways to bring in new knowledge to the Internet caf such as joining listservs, discussion boards, or chatrooms in communities of their interest, others may learn to rely on the Internet caf, and thus stop their development.
103 This is another kind of digital divide since those living in areas with a larger community of practitioners, who have a wider knowledge base, or are up-to-date with computer use are at an advantage for learning more applications of computers, and thus more educational uses. Those living in areas with limited resources of human knowledge about digital technology are at a disadvantage since information is not readily available, or can be learned through day-to-day interactions with the community of practitioners. Those at a disadvantage would have to expend extra effort to stay abreast of developments in computer use. While several dimensions of the digital divide have been identified in the literature (Attewell, 2001; Mossberger et al., 2003; Natriello, 2001; Norris, 2001; Riel, 2000), this dimension regarding local cultural restrictions is a new contribution of this study. A potential solution to this limitation would be for youth or community organizations to intervene and provide informational sessions for adolescents regarding using computers at Internet cafs. However, as indicated by this study, adolescents are the body of authority and control of their own learning at the Internet caf, which may be a source of their motivation. Outside intervention from more structured educational organizations may alter or reduce the quality of adolescentsâ€™ experiences at the Internet caf. Thus, such interventions, if to be done, should be done outside the context of the Internet caf and be optional. Leading to misconceptions about reality and knowledge Adolescents may use the Internet as the major source of information, and seek answers to most of their questions on the Internet. They believe that the Internet makes them knowledgeable. Moreover, they take actions (such as dieting, exercising) based on the information they find on the Internet. This reliance on the Internet brings about some
104 potential risks. Adolescents may take all of the information on the Internet as reality and truth. While some adolescents may teach themselves how to evaluate information found on the Internet, others may believe it without further evaluation. Moreover, adolescents may believe that all there is to be found is on the Internet, and that there is no reality or truth beyond the Internet. These are potential risks of using the Internet too much. While they can be alleviated by training or information sessions, such services are currently not available in Turkey. Enabling access to undesirable content Another major question regarding the use of the Internet to collect information is the possibility of accessing undesirable content. Since the adolescents who participated in this study expressed being curious as a reason for searching for information on the Internet, it is possible that they may be (or become) curious about content that is undesirable by adults. While the Internet caf manager is officially responsible for monitoring adolescents and/or providing filtering software for some content (porn sites, websites of organizations with harmful causes, or anti-state sites), adolescents may face or seek undesirable content while on the Internet. Fostering knowledge of questionable nature Adolescents believe that efficient access to information at the Internet caf enabled them to become very knowledgeable in a short time. However, we know that learning a large body of knowledge takes long time (Bransford et al., 1999). Thus, it does not seem reasonable for adolescents to learn a large body of knowledge in a short time. This fact raises questions, not about the amount, but about the nature of the knowledge learned by adolescents in a short time. This issue has been raised earlier by Imel (2003), who wrote that there is an â€œincomplete understanding of the extent and type of learning that is
105 occurringâ€ (p. 1) when learning is based on the Internet. (See â€˜Suggestions for Future Researchâ€™ section below for further details on this topic). Suggestions for Future Research The results of this study raised further questions that should be answered to enhance our understanding of the phenomenon of educational uses of computers at Internet cafs. These topics for further study are (1) factors that might facilitate educational uses of computers, (2) nature of knowledge gained through search engines, and (3) lack of motivation in school. Factors that might facilitate educational uses of computers The results indicate that learning about educational uses of computers is a prerequisite for learning and experiencing them. In order for one to move to educational uses, he/she needs supervision, direction, and role models. The results also indicate that the Internet caf provides these conditions for adolescents to learn about educational uses of computers. However, the adolescents in this study indicated that not everyone who goes to the Internet caf â€œadvancesâ€ to the educational uses of computers. Thus, the existence of a structure such as the Internet caf that provides the conditions does not ensure that adolescents will engage in educational uses. There may be other factors such as technical skills, beliefs about who should use technology, and family or community values (Farmer, 2005) that influence the type of activity adolescents engage in while at the Internet caf. Given the research design, this study included only participants who already use computers educationally. Furthermore, being informed by a phenomenological framework, this study attempted to capture the experiences of a rather homogenous group of adolescents, including two siblings. Their use of computers educationally can also be attributed to factors such as parental support, socioeconomic
106 status, learning styles, and motivation. Future research should investigate the motives and conditions of those who continue to play games after a long period of attendance at the Internet caf, in order to understand why they do not engage in educational uses. In addition, further research should investigate additional factors that contribute to educational uses of computers. Nature of knowledge gained through search engines As described earlier, adolescents claim to have become knowledgeable in a short time by using the Internet. Even though this would seem to be in the interest of adolescents, it is but a substitute for accumulating knowledge over time. While the efficiency of searching for and accessing information on the Internet is undisputable, it is questionable that one can accumulate the same amount of information in a short period, just as one would otherwise do so in extended periods of time. Through these activities, adolescents may in fact simulate learning, and be able to only cite facts as in rote memorization. Imel (2003) has already noted that we do not fully understand the extent and type of learning that occurs while using the Internet. Also, Bransford and colleagues argue that, â€œexpertise occurs only with major investments of time, and the amount of time it takes to learn material is roughly proportional to the amount of material being learnedâ€ (Bransford et al., 1999). Thus, that kind of time-efficient learning raises questions about the nature of the knowledge as well as the nature of the learning process. For example, what is the retention of this kind of knowledge? Does the body of knowledge gained through Internet search efficiently address only the lower levels of Bloomâ€™s taxonomy of learning objectives? Can this information be transferred to other situations? Is this body of knowledge consistent and coherent, or is it a set of independent facts? Is this process of gathering knowledge over the Internet learning or a proxy for learning? Since the
107 findings of this study rely solely on participantsâ€™ accounts of their experiences, they leave the above questions unanswered. Future research should address the above questions regarding the nature of a body of knowledge gained through Internet searches by adolescents who claim to become knowledgeable in a short time. For example, a study using artifacts produced by adolescents that display their knowledge or one that involves the adolescents in a discussion about a topic they claim to have learned over the Internet would be able to explore some of the above questions. Lack of motivation in school The discrepancy between adolescentsâ€™ motivation to learn at the Internet caf and their lack of motivation to do schoolwork has been discussed earlier. However, the reasons for this discrepancy are unknown. Based on the literature that emphasizes the freedom of the learner (Dewey, 1938; Illich, 1971), it may be the structured and authoritative nature of school that imposes the national curriculum on every student, and does not leave much room for adolescents to explore and pursue their own interests. If schools would take more constructivist approaches to teaching and learning, and focus on student centered learning, the problem of motivation could decrease. However, the question â€œwhy are adolescents interested in learning about anything but school subjects?â€ remains unanswered. Indeed, Gee (2004) asks a similar question regarding video games and not learning to read. He states that while children are able to learn to identify on their own more than 38400 kinds of Pokmons, defined by a complex system, large scale reading initiatives have to take place â€œto teach children to match these 44 phonemes and 26 lettersâ€ (Gee, 2004, p. 10) because the same children have difficulty to learn to read. He argues furthermore that if Pokmon were made into a school subject, many children would have
108 problems learning it. Consequently, Gee asks â€œwhat is it about school that manages to transform children who are good at learning  into children who are not good at learning ?â€(Gee, 2004, p. 11). I suggest that future research examine the experiences of adolescents who use computers educationally at Internet cafs with school. While these suggestions for further research are important, answers to these questions will by no means complete our knowledge regarding educational uses of computers at Internet cafs by adolescents. They will, however, support and expand our knowledge gained through this study since this study is the first one exploring the phenomenon of adolescentsâ€™ educational uses of computers at Internet cafs. Conclusions and Significance of the Study This study contributes to the literature on childrenâ€™s and adolescentsâ€™ use of computers by contributing to the discussion of benefits and harms associated with adolescentsâ€™ use of computers. It points to the possibility of educational computer use by adolescents leading to lifelong learning experiences. It also supports the literature in terms of adolescentsâ€™ development of confidence and identity owing to their particular uses of computers. Also, it introduces new concerns regarding adolescentsâ€™ use of computers. While concerns about undesirable content on the Internet have already been raised in the literature, the level of experiences has not been questioned before. This study raises the question about the nature of the body of knowledge adolescents gain by learning from the Internet. This study also contributes to the literature on the multiple realities computers and the Internet enable. While the multiple realities adolescents live due to the computers and the Internet have been studied (particularly Turkleâ€™s work), this study includes evidence that adolescents may consider the Internet the ultimate reality.
109 In addition, this study adds to the discussion about the digital divide by demonstrating a new dimension of the digital divide due to the cultural and intellectual limitations of the location one lives. In other words, this study shows that the location and cultural environment in which an adolescent lives (and the Internet caf he/she attends as the community of practice) may be too narrow to foster further development for the adolescent by providing only a limited range of behaviors and activities to model. The results of this study inform educational administrators of the benefits and concerns related to adolescentsâ€™ uses of computers at Internet cafs. While this study is a first one on this topic, it does give some information on how adolescents use computers and what activities they engage in at the Internet caf. Administrators can benefit from this information by taking it into consideration while making decisions regarding Internet cafs. As a strategy to avoid the potential harms, they could require Internet caf managers to have an in-depth knowledge of various computer applications, adolescent psychology, and protection of children. Furthermore, they could require Internet cafs to assume more educational responsibilities such as by requiring them to give workshops or information sessions to children and adolescents. This study also provides information that may be enlightening for educators. For example it provides insights for community and youth organizations wishing to support adolescents about how much involvement and freedom they should provide. It provides insights for schools and school teachers about how they can benefit from the intrinsic motivation of adolescents. Also, given that Internet cafs are the only places for computer use for many adolescents, and they are very popular among this group, educators could benefit from adolescentsâ€™ experiences at Internet cafs in their goals for integrating
110 computers into the education of adolescents. For example, they can communicate to students the benefits of using computers in public places, while at the same time informing them of their concerns. Another way of benefiting from adolescentsâ€™ present experiences would be for schools to add more theoretical courses into their curriculum (which do not require computers) in which they inform students of various educational uses of computers such as Internet searching strategies as well as of the conditions they need to be aware of to avoid possible harm. Furthermore, subject matter teachers can actively give more guidance and encouragement about computer applications students can benefit from in their coursework. Finally, the study has implications for educational researchers. It proposes several research questions for further investigation of educational uses of computers at Internet cafs. While this study raises a new question regarding factors that may contribute to the development of educational computer use, it introduces one of the potential factors â€“ using computers in a social environment such as the Internet caf and sustained participation in the community of practitioners present at the Internet caf. In addition, studies similar to this one in other informal learning environments would enhance our knowledge about out-of-school learning. This study contributes to our knowledge of informal learning environments, in particular those that are unstructured.
APPENDIX A PARTICIPANT BACKGROUND SURVEY Participant ID: Pseudonym: Gender: 1. How old are you? 2. Which school and grade are you in? 3. Are you preparing for the university entrance exam? 4. If yes, how much do you study for preparation? 5. (If responded yes to question 3) Are you attending a preparation institution or taking private courses? 6. How often do you go to Internet cafs? 7. When (day/time) do you go there? 8. How long do you stay each time you go there? 9. Do you have a preference among Internet cafs in Balikesir? 10. If yes, which one do you prefer? Why? 11. For how long have you been attending Internet cafs? 12. Which activities do you do at Internet cafs? 13. For how long have you been using computers? 14. How proficient do you feel in using computers? 15. Do you have a computer at home? 16. Do you have computer access elsewhere (in school etc.)? 111
APPENDIX B INTERVIEW GUIDES Dear _________, Thanks for agreeing to participate in this study. I would like to talk to you about your experiences as a user of Internet cafs. I am interested in your experiences about Internet cafs and the place of Internet cafs in your life. There is no right answer to these questions. Interview 1 1. Tell me about your experiences about going to Internet cafs. 2. What kinds of things do you do there? 3. How did you learn about Internet cafs? 4. How did you start going to Internet cafs? 5. Tell me about your friends who go to Internet cafs. 6. Why do you go to Internet cafs? 7. Tell me how satisfying your experiences are. 8. Describe some benefits of going to Internet cafs. 9. Is there anything you would like to add? Interview 2 10. Tell me about your experience(s) at Internet cafs that stand out for you. 11. What does the Internet caf mean for you? 12. How important is the Internet caf for you? 13. How has the Internet caf changed you or your life? 112
113 14. How do you feel before going to the Internet caf? 15. How do you feel when you are there? 16. How do you feel after you have been there? 17. What do people around you (friends, family, school, etc.) think about your going to the caf? 18. Is there anything you would like to add? 19. (There may be additional questions that arise after listening to the data from the first interview.) Interview 3 20. Feedback session, discussion of previous findings. 21. Reflections on the significance of Internet cafs and the meaning of the experience.
114 APPENDIX C MEANING UNITS List of Meaning Units Transition from playing games to educational uses * The Internet as a shortcut to learning * Curiosity and learning feeding into each other Need for progress Modeling othersâ€™ educational uses of computers Blended experiences Incidental learning * Self-control of learning * Individual choice/freedom Transgressing physical boundaries of knowledge Developing creativity Gaining general/cultural knowledge * Learning social skills Emotional development Physical development Maturation Order and organization in life Belief in the role of computers for progress Educational uses of computers as lifestyle * Computers as a resort to psychological issues Isolation from society Belief in the superiority of educational uses Utility of educational uses Educational uses helping career choices * denotes a â€œshared meaning unitâ€ (common to 5 or more participants).
115 Table 1: Meaning units, essence, and implications SHARED MEANING UNITS ELEMENTS OF THE ESSENCE IMPLICATIONS Transition from playing games to educational uses Advancement toward educational uses Potentially facilitating transfer by providing a familiar atmosphere Supporting the advancement of computer use Being locally limited Factors that might facilitate the educational uses of computers The Internet as a shortcut to learning Gaining general/cultural knowledge Knowledge as a source of self-confidence Initiating lifelong learning Fostering adolescent development Leading to misconceptions about reality and knowledge Enabling access to undesirable content Fostering knowledge of questionable nature Nature of knowledge gained through search engines Self-control of learning Incidental learning Self-control of learning Promoting motivation to learn Lack of motivation in school Educational uses of computers as lifestyle Educational uses of computers as lifestyle Fostering adolescent development
APPENDIX D THE PILOT STUDY Background A pilot study was conducted with the same framework of transcendental phenomenology. The data were collected in Balikesir in May-June 2003. Three adolescents participated in the pilot study. The research questions were What are the experiences of adolescent users of Internet cafs in Balikesir, Turkey? What is the meaning of using Internet cafs for adolescents in Balikesir, Turkey? Setting There were about 180 Internet cafs in Balikesir. The participants came from two different Internet cafs in town. One of them, which I will call YoungNet, is located near downtown. It consists of one large room with about 30 computers, and a unisex restroom. It is on the ground floor of a building and is easily visible from the street. Tea and sodas are served upon request. Smoking is not prohibited. The interviews with the participants were conducted in a vacant room in the basement of YoungNet. The other one, that I will call Paradise, is located in downtown. It is located on the second floor of a business building. It has four rooms with computers that are designed for certain purposes based on hardware and software capabilities. It consists of one room designated for Internet access, two rooms designated for computer games, one room for general computer use, two rooms without computers used as the caf section (with a computer for listening to music), a balcony, and two restrooms â€“ one for males and one for females. Varieties of sandwiches and drinks are served upon request. Indeed there is an employee working 116
117 solely to serve food and drinks. Smoking is prohibited throughout the Internet caf. Paradise also has two employees on site whom users could ask for technical help. The interviews were conducted in one of the caf rooms when others were not present. Participants Participants were recruited through fliers posted in some Internet cafs in Balikesir. I sought males and females of ages 12 to 18. There were no limitations on the level of education. The first three participants who satisfied the criteria among those who contacted me were recruited for the study. This study included three participants of ages 15, 17, and 18 respectively. They were all males because no females volunteered to participate. Participant 1 Ahmet was 15 years old. He was an 8th grade student. At the time of the interviews he had been preparing for standardized tests that would allow him to go to special high schools such as English medium schools, vocational schools, or the military school. He was from a middle class family. He did not own a computer but continually asked his father to purchase one. The other places he had access to computers were school during the computer class, and rarely his auntâ€™s house. He saved some of his allowance to go to the Internet caf for a few hours every week. He took computer classes in school for three years and had been attending the Internet caf for three years. He typically went to the Internet caf on his days off school. He was used to spending about 1.5 to 2 hours at the Internet caf. He said that he went to any Internet caf that is cheap, but he usually went to YoungNet, which was 20-25 minutes from home, because it had enough computers for him to play together with a dozen of friends. Ahmet used the Internet caf for playing games most of the time.
118 Participant 2 Burak was 17 years old. He had been attending 12th grade in a technical vocational school. He was preparing for the university entrance test, which would determine whether and which particular department and university he could enroll. He did not get external help on studying (although it is common to do so). He stated that he spent 3-4 hours everyday for studying for the test. During the time of the interviews he had been on sick leave from school so that he could spend more time studying for the exam, a common practice among his peers. He said that instead he was spending all his day (16-17 hours) at the Internet caf those days. His brother became the manager of YoungNet a year ago, so Burak attended YoungNet since then. He assumed a double role at YoungNet â€“ he sometimes helped his brother, so he felt like a customer and an employee. His brother has done other computer jobs before, therefore Burak knew many people with computer expertise. He had started using computers 3-4 years ago in school. He came from a middle class family. He did not own a computer. He had access to computers also at school, which they typically used for academic work. He used the computers at YoungNet when there were not many customers. Therefore, he did not have to pay. His brother and the owner of the caf were both comfortable with it. Burak used computers for several different purposes. Participant 3 Cenk was 18. He was a college freshman living with his parents. He went from vocational high school to a two year program in the same field. He had been going to Internet cafs for five years and attending Paradise for a year at the time of the interviews. He came from a middle class family. He did not own a computer but his father had promised to buy one. He also had access to computers at school, which he
119 could use for academic and non-academic purposes. He used to go to the Internet caf almost everyday. He went to school in the morning, and in late afternoon he went to the Internet caf right from school, because the Internet caf was on his way home. His home was about a 30-minute walking distance from the Internet caf. Although he stayed at the Internet caf for 3-5 hours everyday, he did not spend more than 2 hours at the computer. He used computers for playing games, sending SMS messages, and browsing a few web pages that he knows. Data Collection Three in-depth interviews in a series were conducted with participants. Ahmet was not available to meet for his third interview. Therefore, overall 8 interviews were conducted. The interviews were conducted one-on-one in vacant rooms at the Internet cafs the participants usually go. Conducting the interviews in a vacant room that is private and silent contributed to the success and the recording quality of the interviews. Also, this arrangement made it convenient for the participants to arrange the meetings as well as for the researcher to make arrangements with the caf manager to ensure the compensation of participants. Participants were given one-hour free access to computers at the Internet caf of their choice for each interview they attended. The interviews moved from semi-structured to unstructured. (Kvale, 1996) The first two sessions were semi-structured with the second being less structured than the first. A semi-structured interview â€œhas a sequence of themes to be covered, as well as suggested questions. Yet at the same time there is an openness to changes of sequence and forms of questions in order to follow up the answers given and the stories told by the subjectsâ€ (Kvale, 1996, p. 124). Thus, both interviews had some questions to be covered while they could be skipped, altered, or extended with probing questions as the
120 participants shared their experiences. As I had some information about the participants by the second session, it had fewer scripted questions and more personalized questions. Some of these personalized questions were noted before the second interview, after listening to the tapes from the first interview, and some of the arose during the second interview. The first session inquired about the participantsâ€™ demographics and habits of Internet caf use, while the second one focused on their feelings, perceptions, and experiences of using Internet cafs. The third interview was unstructured; there were no preset questions although there was an agenda. During this session, I shared my interpretations of the participantsâ€™ experiences through conducting the first two interviews and listening to the recordings. I asked for their feedback and clarification and gave them an opportunity to express any additional thoughts, feelings, concerns related to their experiences with Internet cafs as well as related to their participation in the study and the interview process. In this session I also made use of the â€œco-researcherâ€ concept (Moustakas, 1994). In phenomenology participants are the major source of information and what counts is their experience from their perspectives. Therefore, the co-researcher concept suggests that the participants are on the same grounds as the researcher seeking answers to the research questions. Before the third interview, I reminded the participants of the purpose of the study, stated the research questions, and asked them to consider their experiences with regard to the research questions. The interviews were conducted in Turkish and were audio-taped. I took some field notes reporting the interview situation as well as some post-interview memos reflecting my thoughts and feelings about my experience of the interview process.
121 Validity The co-researcher concept was incorporated by asking the participants to evaluate my initial interpretations and correct me if needed or clarify the points they would like to. They have not offered any substantial changes, however this process prevented me from making misinterpretations of the information. This session served as member check, thus helping increase the trustworthiness of the study. After the analyses were done, I asked a colleague to read my narratives (textural and structural descriptions) as well as my subjectivity statement and look for elements of my subjectivity in the narratives. This increased the possibility that any of my prejudgments related to the study have not influenced data analysis and intermediary representations of the data. Ethical Considerations Approval of the study procedures have been obtained from the Institutional Review Board of the University of Florida prior to participant selection or data collection. Once the prospective participants contacted me, I sent a letter home (i.e., the parental informed consent form). After the participant returned the signed consent form, I explained them the procedures for the study in simple language as stated in the previously prepared and approved assent script, and obtained their verbal consent to participate in the study. Both the parents and participants were made aware of the participantsâ€™ right to not participate in the study, not continue the interviews, not respond to every question, and stop allowing me to use their data. After data collection, particular attention was paid to protect the privacy of the participants by using pseudonyms and changing or removing any identifying information in the reports.
122 Data Analysis The interviews were transcribed verbatim (Poland, 2002) and analyzed using phenomenal data analysis as described by Moustakas (1994). The procedures employed are described in the following paragraphs in detail. The interviews that were transcribed verbatim in Turkish were then read completely a few times until the researcher became familiar with the whole set of data. All interview transcripts for the same participant were merged into one document chronologically. A step by step explanation of the data analysis procedures followed is provided below. The first five steps constitute â€œdata reduction,â€ the next two constitute â€œimaginative variation,â€ the next two constitute combination of commonalities, and the final step is the synthesis of the textures and structures and the discovery of the essence. For each participant, data were â€œhorizonalizedâ€ (Moustakas, 1994, p.120). That is, every statement related to the phenomenon was treated as having equal value. The phenomenon was described as â€œusing an Internet cafâ€ and any statement that is relevant to the phenomenon was recorded. No judgments were made on the selection of statements other than their relevance to the phenomenon. The rest of the statements, which were not directly related to â€œusing an Internet cafâ€ were deleted. The statements selected as relevant were translated into English as closely resembling the original as possible. Every meaning unit has to include one meaning. Therefore, at this stage, some statements selected in the previous stage as relevant were split into a few pieces to constitute individual meaning units. They were split whenever there was a transition in meaning. The statements that did not have a transition in meaning were recorded as they are as meaning units.
123 The meaning units were then organized by similarity. A group of meaning units that stood out was called a theme, such as â€œthe influence of friends on the habit of going to Internet cafs.â€ (See more examples in the list below). Meaning units were fine-tuned here by eliminating repetitions and removing overlaps. Similar meaning units made up the themes, and some themes that were similar were aggregated into a theme cluster. This stage consisted mainly of combining the meaning units into a narrative format with the use of themes. The list of themes arising from each participant was composed into a linear narrative format using the participantsâ€™ statements as quotations abundantly for every participant. The textural descriptions were written in the third person and the researcherâ€™s interpretations were not included. The resulting narratives constituted the textures of the experience â€“ the particulars of each participantâ€™s experiences in the form of their expressions. The textures of the experience resemble closely the first-hand accounts of the participantsâ€™ experiences. They constitute the subjective dimension of reality. At this step, the researcher elaborates on the individual textural descriptions to arrive at the underlying structures â€“ what possibly could account for the experiences. The textural descriptions were read several times to approach the experience from different points of view and derive possible explanations. Connections were made between the statements within the text. I looked for possible explanations for the particular experiences and statements in the text. I looked for the underlying structures of experiences, varied the possibilities, and thought about anything that can account for the experiences.
124 After the imaginative variation where I looked for all the things that can account for the experiences of the participants, I compared them against the rest of the textural description and the original interview transcripts. Those that were not supported by the rest of the texts were eliminated. The remaining statements were combined into narrative form in my words. This text had no subject or identity. It was written in general terms, not particulars. It described the structures of the experience, like the structures of a building, what underlies the textures. This and the next stages consisted of integrating the descriptions from different participants. First textural descriptions of all participantsâ€™ experiences were integrated based on the meaning units and themes that were common to all three participants. This narrative was written in the third person with no quotations as quotes do not represent all participants. In the same way, the individual structural descriptions were combined into one document along the meaning units and themes that were common to all three participants. Although a high number of meaning units and themes emerged from participantsâ€™ experiences, few of them were common to all three participants. Many meaning units and themes that could have provided valuable information needed to be ignored because they were not common to all participants. With a small group of participants, support for the themes was hard to attain. Therefore strong support for findings was chosen at the expense of the number of themes to be included. This stage is the synthesis of the information from the last two steps. The composite structural description was integrated with the composite textural description to constitute a universal description of the phenomenon of â€œusing an Internet caf.â€ The
125 purpose of this step is to reach the essence of the experience of using Internet cafs. Moustakas (1994) describes essence as â€œthat which is common or universal, the condition or quality without which a thing would not be what it isâ€ (p. 100). The data were detached from particular experiences of the individuals to reach the universals of the experience while statements from the composite textural descriptions were used to provide explanation and proof. In other words, the manifestation of reality in the form of individual particular experiences was washed out to leave the essence of the experience. The synthesis included an explanation of the essence of the experience and its elements. Results During the reduction phase, several themes were developed from the meaning units for participants. Due to the particular experiences of participants, many different meaning units and themes emerged for each individual. However, there were some meaning units and themes that were common to all three participants. Below is a list of the themes, some of which helped uncover the essences of the experience. The text in capitals indicates a theme cluster with the themes constituting it below. The letters in parentheses refer to the initial of the participantâ€™s first name who shares this theme. Themes of Meaning Units 1. The Internet caf as a place to entertain oneself and relax (A, C) to spend time (B,C) 2. INTERNET CAF AS A SOCIAL PHENOMENON 2.1. Influence of friends on the habit of going to Internet cafs (A, B, C) 2.2. The Internet caf as a social experience (A, B, C) 2.3. Joy of sharing the experiences with friends (A, B, C) 2.4. The Internet caf as a means to build and maintain relationships (A, B, C) 3. FEELINGS ASSOCIATED WITH THE EXPERIENCE OF GOING TO THE INTERNET CAF
126 3.1. The joy of being at the Internet caf (B, C) 3.2. Lack of excitement â€“ sameness of the Internet caf (B, C) 4. OPINIONS ABOUT INTERNET CAFS 4.1. No harm (B, C) 4.2. Benefits of Internet cafs (A, B, C) 4.2.1. Learning to use computers (B, C) 5. Definition of good Internet cafs (A, B, C) 6. Internet caf as a routine/habit (B, C) Although there were few common themes, each participant had some rich information on their particular experiences. Sometimes they were able to articulate their experiences very clearly, and sometimes they could only talk about the manifestations of their experiences but could not reflect on the underlying structure of their experiences. Below are some examples of the descriptions as well as the essence of the experience. Textural Description of Ahmetâ€™s Experiences The Internet caf is another world for Ahmet. He described in detail his transitions between the two worlds â€“ inside the Internet caf and outside of it. His description includes his feelings related to entering and exiting the different worlds, and the issues of adjustment between them. This particular participant feels strongly about switching between realities, and explains them after reflective processes. Below is an excerpt from the textural description of Ahmetâ€™s experiences. There are feelings of excitement about a planned experience. If you plan ahead of time you â€œcanâ€™t follow the class. My mind is at the Internet caf.â€ There are feelings of impatience entering the Internet caf. There is excitement, wanting to â€œenter the game quickly to start right awayâ€. If there is a queue, â€œit is boring, time does not pass with huffing and puffingâ€. There is relief to â€œsee a vacant spot.â€ â€œOnce you sit down, you get into the game I become very engrossed in the game due to excitement. When we play in the dark sections and someone appears in front of me, my heartbeats get fast My heartbeats are not enough. I get excited, I am
127 afraid. I try to press the keys quickly. My hands jumble.â€ After the experience is over, â€œfor a few minutes one cannot return to himself, gets lost in thought absent-minded mind gets mixed up. Your head is strange, there is some density of sound.â€ After being â€œengrossed in the game with headphones hearing vehicle sounds you go out and hear the vehicle sounds a lot of noise, cars.â€ You â€œdonâ€™t soon get out of its excitement.â€ Structural Description of Ahmetâ€™s Experiences Ahmetâ€™s experience demonstrates the relationships of an individual with a group of friends who attend Internet cafs regularly. His experiences suggest that Internet cafs not only enable one to make new friendships and maintain current friendships, but also may threaten the existing friendships when a member chooses not to attend. What underlies Ahmetâ€™s voice is that he did not have a choice but go to the Internet caf with his friends. If he did not go, he would be excluded from the group. Even though the group did not have any such intension, it could naturally occur that the group members have a common interest that makes up the topic of their conversations which would be a foreign concept to the other member, the outsider. On the other hand, going to Internet cafs makes the relationships better due to shared experiences, the common reflection on the shared experiences creates a group sense. Below is an excerpt from the structural description of Ahmetâ€™s experiences. â€œThose who do not know the Internet caf are not given any attention.â€ If he did not participate in that experience, he would face the risk of being excluded from the social group â€œComing to the Internet caf makes my relationships with my friends better.â€ The togetherness due to the game was not limited to the Internet caf. They shared conversations about their common experiences also. It is common to talk about the game after exiting the Internet caf, sometimes for a few hours. Therefore, the motivation for going to the Internet caf is two-fold; not participation risks the relationships while participation reinforces them. By going to the Internet caf, not only do you maintain and reinforce relationships but also you are prone to making new friendships. In the teenager circles Ahmet is a part of, certain computer games are central hobbies. If one is a regular player and/or good at the games, he/she is known among other people. â€œIf you know Counter [Strike] very well you get all sorts of friends, many friendsâ€.
128 Ahmetâ€™s experiences also remind us that using Internet cafs could well become a part of oneâ€™s identity, particularly for adolescents who are in constant search of their identity. Knowing the games, liking to go to the Internet caf, being part of a group that goes to Internet cafs can be elements that distinguish one from others. Below is another excerpt from the structural description of Ahmetâ€™s experiences. Some people are identified with knowing the game well . . . From this perspective, attachment to Internet cafs is indeed an identity issue. Being known as a good player is important to identity when you know the game well, when you walk in the caf, people will say, â€œthis kid knows wellâ€ one likes to be associated with Internet cafs never refuses when invited to join to go to the Internet caf. Once started, â€œone cannot stopâ€ going to the Internet caf. He calls himself â€œaddictedâ€ to Internet cafs although he does not go there for more than a few hours a week cannot even imagine not having Internet cafs used to go there even when he was younger, when not supposed to play games saves money from other things in order to be able to go to the Internet caf. This, for him, is part of his personal development. Even if his parents would not allow him, he would escape but go. Structural Description of Burakâ€™s Experiences At first look, the Internet caf seems to be a solution to Burakâ€™s problems and seems to affect him positively. He speaks very highly of the Internet caf; according to him everyone is happy there. Indeed, the Internet caf does nothing but distances Burak from his problems. Furthermore, it deteriorates the situation, while providing a temporary relief for the manifestations of the problem. For Burak the Internet caf seems like a solution, but actually it leads to an inner conflict for him. Below is an excerpt from the structural description of Burakâ€™s experiences. Burakâ€™s experiences at the Internet caf can be characterized as a habit with no known rationale in order to avoid work. He has to spend the free time created by not doing the work and eliminate the resulting boredom that might probably bring along guilt. Particularly, the sick leave from school which is generally intended for focused work on the university entrance test, gives more time to be filled with some activity, if not with work. The time spent at the Internet caf has a function of procrastination. Upon leaving the Internet caf at the end of the day, the work that has been ignored casts itself resulting with the extension of the day into the next day by working after midnight. No lessons are learned however. The Internet caf
129 is seen as stealing the time from work â€“ which seems to be the very purpose of going there. Although there is an awareness of the situation and the fruitlessness of the choices being made, the subsequent days proceed in the same way. The morning brings a new day that will be spent at the Internet caf and responsibilities that will be avoided until reality impinges upon the individual. For Burak, the world is challenging. The requirements for survival are overwhelming. It requires long days and nights of work, while the Internet caf helps people forget their concerns. In a broader picture, the experiences at the Internet caf seem to be different from those outside of it. Some people take advantage of this alternative while some experience it without realizing. Textural-Structural Description of Cenkâ€™s Experiences1 For some attending the Internet caf is a symbol (e.g., Ahmetâ€™s experiences) whereas for Cenk, it really has more to do with the actual presence at the Internet caf. For Cenk, using the Internet caf is not an identity issue, it has more to do with socialization. The Internet caf is first a caf for him, and then an Internet caf. The dominant concept in his perception of Internet caf is social interaction in or due to the Internet caf. This emphasis on the caf dimension of the Internet caf has probably to do with the particular caf he attends. Paradise, the Internet caf he attends, has a large section designed for socializing, and food and beverages are served. Internet cafs may be social gathering places regardless of whether they have a caf section or not. Nevertheless, it seems that Paradise allows one to â€œhang outâ€ in the caf section without relating to computers. In this case computers become an optional activity for customers. Below is an excerpt from the textural-structural description of Cenkâ€™s experiences. 1 Note that individual textural-structural descriptions were not a part of the data analysis. This description is provided here as an example.
130 Socialization is central to Cenkâ€™s experiences of the Internet caf. The Internet caf is much like any other social gathering place but it is preferred to its counterparts â€“ not because it has computers but due to other factors. At the Internet caf smoking is forbidden, it is clean, and â€œrightâ€ people go there. Right people are â€œcontemporaryâ€, â€œthey donâ€™t fightâ€ or quarrel but â€œrespect each otherâ€. The Internet caf affords the selection of friends. The Internet caf is a solution to the problem of loneliness. One can resort to the Internet caf to avoid loneliness and the resulting boredom. Cenk used to â€œsit a lot at home had friends in the neighborhood, they moved. Thereâ€™s no one now I want to play something like football or basketball together as a group. There is no oneâ€ One can make friends by going to the Internet caf and spend time with them. The Internet caf is a community. When you â€œlook for something to entertain myselfâ€ the Internet caf â€œis like a friendâ€. It is a solution to stress, boredom, loneliness. â€œMy life has become colorfulâ€. Seeing friends becomes the overriding purpose of visiting the Internet caf. The computers are peripheral to social experiences. â€œI donâ€™t necessarily play even if I come everyday Itâ€™s okay if there arenâ€™t computers, but we play with friends on the computer. We donâ€™t get bored I come here to spend nice time with my friends. That is my expectationâ€ The Internet caf â€œhas a nice place in my life I donâ€™t get bored. I donâ€™t realize how life passes It gives beauty to your life.â€ Composite Textural Description Below is an excerpt from the composite textural description. It narrates how friendships are made and reinforced at or due to Internet cafs. All participants expressed some form of making or maintaining friends due to the Internet caf, therefore this theme existed in all textural descriptions, and hence it is part of the composite textural description. In this sense, the Internet caf has two roles. First it serves as an arena that allows people to convene and interact, thus increasing social networks. Second it serves as an object to talk about thus enabling and increasing conversation that may build and strengthen the bonds between people. The Internet caf enables the making, maintaining, and enhancing friendships. One can easily make friends while playing games or through other friends. You either make friends at the Internet caf or because of your experiences at the Internet caf. If you know the games, you can make friends outside of the Internet caf also, as it provides a topic to talk. For some, the Internet caf is a place to avoid loneliness, for some it is a place to enhance existing relations by sharing more experiences.
131 Internet cafs are communities. Generally people know each other by name or face. Thus, it gives comfort to go the same place. Composite Structural Description Whether spoken by the participants or not, the Internet caf provides an alternative reality to the lived reality outside of it. The group of people who attend the Internet caf, Cenk says and Burak implies, are not representative of the general population. Therefore, the interaction at the Internet caf, sometimes surrounded by computers is different from that outside. The computer applications, particularly games, web pages, and Internet communications may allow one to experience multiple realities. Possibly, what makes the alternative realities attractive is that they are alternative â€“ alternative to their unhappy lived realities. (See also Turkle, 1997). Below are excerpts from the composite structural description. The experiences at the Internet caf can be best described as entertainment and socialization. It is a leisure activity to relax and reduce boredom. Coming to the Internet caf is an attempt to relieve from stress. The activities at the Internet caf represent a different reality, different from the boredom that is outside of it. There are two realities one can alternate between. The outside world is stressful, dirty, lonely, boring, and tiring. The Internet caf is enjoying, relaxing, vital, welcoming. Relieving from stress is relieving from reality. Burak describes the experience as â€œtak[ing] a new identity when [he] enter[s]â€ the Internet caf â€“ as the pink world. The two worlds are implicitly brought up by Burak and Cenk. Burak leaves the challenges and exam stress at home to come to a place where everyone is happy and respectful. The Internet caf is a place where Cenkâ€™s boredom vanishes suddenly, unlike anywhere else. The multiplicity of the worlds becomes more apparent with Ahmetâ€™s description of his feelings while switching between the realities in and outside the Internet caf, as described above. The distinction between the two different worlds is not very clear for some, but Ahmet describes the process of transitions between the two worlds clearly. The multiple realities manifest themselves better through the feelings in switching
132 between them. There is excitement and impatience while entering the world of the Internet caf and absent-mindedness while exiting it. The Internet caf provides a means to experience alternative realities one aspires to. Textural-Structural Synthesis The combination of the textures and the structures of all the participants over the common experiences suggests that socialization is an indispensable aspect of using Internet cafs. Interpersonal relationships form the essence of the experience of attending Internet cafs. It is a social phenomenon because the activities are done in groups, those who attend form a group, and attendance leads to the building of new relationships and reinforcing others. Below is an excerpt from the textural-structural synthesis. Internet caf experiences for teenagers are a social phenomenon All aspects of the Internet caf experiences occur in social circles. The social dimension of the Internet caf experience is self-sustaining and self-reproducing. The actions that arise out of being a social group, enable them, by shared experiences, to enhance relationships and to bind all individuals into a community. The habit of attending Internet cafs is established through interactions with friends. A group with the common experience of Internet cafs lures the outsider into this new alternative hobby. The attraction of the Internet caf begins before taking the first visit, via hearing the reflections on shared experiences. The scaffolding provided by the group makes the first visit a pleasant one. The visits then build into a habit for the individual, thus providing an addition to the social group The Internet caf is a place where people not only gather for their interests but also form friendships and become a community. The shared space makes it easy to also share personal space â€“ eliminating borders and involving all individuals to the experience. The experience of using Internet cafs revolves around social relationships, eventually. Going to the Internet caf has many social functions. On a micro level, the act of going to the Internet caf is either to meet friends there, or done together with friends, or has the purpose of meeting potential friends there. On a macro level, the habitual act of going to the Internet caf is a means to create, maintain, and continue relationships. The
133 kind of sociality in an Internet caf environment is surrounded by using computers. Indeed, the computers seem only to be the object of the Internet caf experience, whereas the â€œothersâ€ are central subject of the experience. However, computers are not completely transparent in the experience either. It seems that, teenagers initially go to Internet cafs to use the computers, be it to play games or to do research. Then they start to socialize within the Internet caf, which may then continue outside of the Internet caf as well. Thus the computers and the Internet caf may lose some of their significance gradually and become secondary to socialization. In this respect the Internet caf is an agent for socialization and the computers are agents to initiate the act of using Internet cafs. Limitations There was a limitation on the selection of the research participants. I had to obtain permission from parents per Institutional Review Board requirements as the participants were minors. This presumes that the parents of the child knew that the child had been attending Internet cafs. This requirement limited participation to those adolescents whose parents approve of their going to Internet cafs. It would have been informative to include adolescents who attend Internet cafs without the knowledge or approval of their parents. Second, translation of the data into English constituted a limitation. For the pilot study I did not receive any help in translation, nor validation or approval of the translations from anyone who could do so. Therefore, some of the details might have lost due to translation, but I tried to do literal translation to avoid including my subjectivity. Although the number of participants was small, the fact that there were no females posits a limitation. Although, by nature a phenomenological study is supposed to
134 investigate a particular group of people, in this study including both genders would be important as the no gender is specified in the research questions. Discussion Based on the importance of the social functions Internet cafs have, they may be likened to cafs. Indeed, Liff and Steward (2003) also liken Internet cafs to cafs in their research on Internet cafs in the UK. In the Turkish case, Internet cafs resemble the coffeehouses that men go to. Bolukbas and Yildiz (2003) concluded from their research in Turkey that Internet cafs are a continuation of coffeehouses for adolescents. Moreover, a participant in the present study, Cenk had said that he â€œdecidedâ€ to go to Internet cafs to spend his time instead of coffeehouses. He stated â€œI think here [the Internet caf] is better than hanging out at dirty places. I decided that Iâ€™d rather come here than ugly, cigarette-smelly coffeehousesâ€. The form of socialization experienced at Internet cafs is characterized by the concept of â€œthird placeâ€ (Oldenburg, 1989). He states that there are three domains or places people live in, â€œ[o]ne is domestic, a second is gainful or productive, and the third is inclusively sociable offering both the basis of community and the celebration of itâ€ (Oldenburg, 1989, p. 14). These are places where people can come or go as they will. As none of them have to take the host role, such places provide a â€œneutral groundâ€ in which â€œfar more informal, even intimateâ€ relations are possible (pp. 22-23). Liff and Steward (2003) also argue that a distinctive form of sociality is created at Internet cafs that can be termed a â€œthird placeâ€. They also quote Oldenburgâ€™s statement that third places exist: . . . on neutral ground and serve to level their guests to a condition of social equality. Within these places, conversation is the primary activity [Third places] are taken for granted and most have a low profile. The character of a third place is
135 determined most of all by its clientele and is marked by a playful mood Though a radically different kind of setting from the home, the third place is remarkably similar to a good home in the psychological comfort and support it extends. (Oldenburg, 1999 cited in Liff & Steward, 2003, p. 320). The Internet caf presents an alternative to the reality the participants have to live outside of it. For example, Ahmet expressed clearly the transition between two worlds. For some participants the transitions are rather blurred, but they did refer to the dichotomies work-leisure and loneliness-friendships that occur outside and inside of the Internet caf respectively. Also in this respect, Internet cafs represent third places as they are seen as a remedy to lifeâ€™s duties and cares, they are â€œthe peopleâ€™s own remedy for stress, loneliness, and alienationâ€ (Oldenburg, 1989, p. 20). Adolescents have different reasons for using Internet cafs. Although simply enjoying the activities in the Internet caf seems like the most natural reason to go to Internet cafs, this was not the major reason for any of the participants. For example, Cenk made a conscious choice to go to the Internet caf, whereas Ahmet made a strategic choice to maintain his friends while at the same time simply enjoying the experience, and Burak does so because â€œthere is something that attracts [him] to the Internet cafâ€ that he does not know. For some adolescents it might be the unconscious act of attaching the activity to their developing identities. Sherry Turkle (1984), who has done research on adolescent development with computers, argues that computers can be used by adolescents in ways that are instrumental to their identity development. Based on her arguments, even the mere association with Internet cafs may contribute to identity building and self concept. She explains the possible ways computers might relate to adolescentsâ€™ identity development.
136 She suggests that her findings showed a discrepancy between the possibilities and the practices. She states: Adolescents use many different kinds of materials to construct their sense of identity. They use their relationships with clothing, with records, with causes. There is an obvious way in which computers can become part of this process: They can become a way of life. Some young people start to see themselves and are seen by others as â€œcomputer people,â€ experts at the technical aspects of computation. They spend most of their time programming computers, and a computer center or a computer club can become the focus of their social life. But most adolescents donâ€™t take this route. They integrate their computer experience into their developing identities in ways that have nothing to do with becoming computer experts (Turkle, 1984, p. 138) An important implication of the study is that, learning to use computers was not central to adolescentsâ€™ experiences. Although it was one of the themes in Burakâ€™s experiences, it was not one of the common themes. Nevertheless, they all mentioned it in some form. Although gaining computer literacy was not the purpose of their habit of going to Internet cafs, they did mention it as a byproduct of their habit. They see computer literacy as an advantage, however they all mentioned the importance of learning to use computers and becoming computer experts in economic and social terms. This is consistent with Mossberger, Tolbert, and Stansburyâ€™s (2003) findings that â€œmore than two-thirds of Americans are convinced that a connection exists between computer skills and various types of economic opportunity. This is particularly true among disadvantaged groups such as African Americans, the unemployed, and women, as well as the young.â€ (pp. 79-80). In the case of the Turkish teenagers, it is possible that they truly believe in the importance of computer literacy and do want to posses it. However, it was not part of their experience because they did not have the direction and guidance to take it further
137 and realize it. The findings from this study may suggest that adolescents need further guidance and support in their use of computers to make them educationally useful. Implications for the Dissertation Study I realized that the 12 to 18 was a large age range due to the variety of meaning units and themes. Indeed, a relatively homogenous group is more suited to a phenomenological study. Moreover, scheduling interviews and keeping appointments were very hard with the youngest participant as he was more dependent on his familyâ€™s plans. Therefore, an older group of participants would be more suitable. In general, the diversity in experiences attained with such a small number of participants led me to understand that homogenous groups could produce more similar data, that will in turn produce stronger themes, getting closer to the essence with more support. A narrower group for the dissertation by adding more criteria such as having participants from one or two Internet caf that are similar in size, price, location, and user group may be more appropriate. No females volunteered for the pilot study, which presented a limitation for the study. For the dissertation study, I should try to actively recruit females by, for example putting a second announcement for females. Doing the interviews in a vacant room that is private and silent contributed to the success and the recording quality of the interviews during the pilot study. Also, this arrangement made it convenient for the participants to arrange the meetings as well as for the researcher to make arrangements with the caf manager to ensure the compensation of participants. I will make advance arrangements for such locations in the Internet cafs for the interviews of the dissertation study.
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BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH Sebnem Cilesiz is currently a Visiting Assistant Professor at the Ohio State University. She holds a Master of Education degree in technology in education from Harvard University, and a Bachelor of Science degree in middle and secondary mathematics education from Middle East Technical University in Ankara, Turkey. Her professional experience includes teaching mathematics at the high school level, educational multimedia development, and university faculty development. 146