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Computer use as a social activity : a study involving Libyan women living away from their home country

Betar, Nagat Ali (2012) Computer use as a social activity : a study involving Libyan women living away from their home country. Doctoral thesis (PhD), Manchester Metropolitan University.

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Abstract

The purpose of this study was to investigate displacement and the migrant experience, particularly in relation to the under-researched area of middle class migration, and the role of the computer in sustaining relationships at a distance. The participants were a group of elite Libyan women who lived with their husbands and children in North Manchester were the focus of the study. The focus of the study was centred on showing how these Libyan women used home computing and the internet as a social tool. A qualitative research methodology was utilised in this study. The data consisted of exploratory semi-structured interviews with a Libyan mother and her daughter, and a series of group discussions collected from Al Lamma gatherings (women’s social gatherings) which were attended by Libyan women of different backgrounds. The use of Al Lamma gatherings provided a culturally appropriate setting in which the women were able to express their views more freely than might have been the case in more traditional research settings such as group interviews or focus groups. The women’s group discussion transcripts were translated from spoken Libyan Arabic into English. Participantobservation field notes, reflective extracts and diary notes were also part of the research data. The analysis of the interviews and the women’s group discussions revealed important issues as a result of using home computing and the internet as a social activity. Home computing was used as a vehicle for informal learning and self-development. However the women found it necessary to overcome various barriers and obstacles to their access to 4 home computing. For instance, conflict and power relations in Libyan families in North Manchester were reflected in members’ access to and use of home computers, prompting strategies such as passive resistance by the women in order to secure access to home computing and the social and leisure goods that it offers. As a result, it is suggested, home computing contributed to the empowerment of the Libyan women participants. Culture and religion also had influences on family structures, and therefore upon practices around home computing and internet use. Further issues discussed in the study included the role of home computing in sustaining real and ‘imagined’ community, and the significance of engaging with virtual realities for children’s development. The thesis also addressed issues related to the role of the English language in creating hierarchies of knowledge and power among researchers. The thesis identifies a need for educators and policy makers to recognize the existence of middle class migrants who have diversity of needs and identities. It is suggested that the engagement with home computing by such migrant groups could have implications for classroom teaching or designing effective courses online. The thesis identifies a need for further research on education, employment and empowerment in relation to middle class immigrant women from under-represented groups in the United Kingdom. The experience of children of immigrant families or transnational families is also identified as a topic for future research. Finally, the thesis recommends enhancing an appreciation of differences by teaching about different social arrangements and cultures in the English education system.

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