Posts Tagged ‘media consumption’

This is a summary of my research project “Media Consumption Experiences of Southeast Asian Chinese Migrants in Australia” under the supervision of Dr. Lewis Mayo and Dr. Fran Martin of the Faculty of Arts at the University of Melbourne. It was submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements of the degree of Postgraduate Diploma of Arts (Asian Studies) at the University of Melbourne.

Media Consumption and Self-Identity

My thesis explores the relationship between international mobility, media and identity. I interviewed eighteen Southeast Asian Chinese migrants from Singapore, Malaysia and Brunei in Australia to understand how and to what extent their narrative media consumption influences the ongoing construction of their identities, including their cultural identities and their sense of belonging to particular places.

My respondents consist of twelve migrants from Malaysia, five from Singapore and one from Brunei Darussalam. These migrants are working adults (aged 28-63) with the status of permanent residents or citizens of Australia. These migrants are all first generation migrants who have lived in Australia for one year to seventeen years, with one exception who has lived here for thirty-three years. They were asked about their media consumption history before arriving in Australia and after their arrival in Australia. These interviews were conducted between May and July 2013.

In my interviews with ethnically Chinese migrants from Southeast Asia, I confirmed the interactive two-way relationship between narrative media consumption and self-identity outlined in earlier research (Christiansen 2004; Georgiou 2004; Metykova 2010). The self-identities of migrants affect their media consumption choices according to their needs, interests and lifestyles. Migrants’ media consumption has the power to transform and reconstruct identity and sense of belonging. Several of the interviewed migrants choose to consume Chinese language media to maintain or re-construct their cultural identity, as they define it. I found that knowledge and understanding of Australian culture through the consumption of Australian media had contributed to a sense of belonging in Melbourne for most of my respondents.

Technology Changes Media Consumption Patterns

My research contributes to our understanding of the media consumption experiences of ethnically Chinese migrants in today’s technology intensive context, a context which differs significantly from that in the times when earlier studies were conducted (Sinclair et al. 2000; Sun et al. 2011, 516). I found that the interactive relationship between self-identities and media consumption is influenced by two factors. The first factor is the advancement of Internet technology and miniaturized media devices making it possible for my respondents to personalize their narrative media consumption choices from around the world, create their identities and carry their social networks while on the move locally and internationally. Mobility of media in everyday life has influenced the formation of identities and the media consumption patterns of the respondents. They customized their media consumption with globally sourced content according to their interests and consumed their media whenever they wanted it. This has helped these migrants’ to maintain their media consumption interests after migrating to Australia. The massive amount of information available online has made my respondents actively involved in the formation of their identities through their interactive searching via the Internet. Furthermore, these miniaturized media devices encouraged “dual screening”, with some of my respondents consuming overseas media while watching local Australian media on TV simultaneously. This illustrates my respondents’ active choice making in determining which media content to consume according to their interests and preferred time, switching back and forth from mobile devices to broadcast TV. Furthermore, Facebook, accessible through miniaturized media devices, is transforming the creation of identities by my respondents, as it provides a platform for them to update their status about their activities, emotions and experiences while on the move locally and internationally. Their Facebook social networks become portable as these are carried on the devices they take with them everywhere they go. The transnational narrative media and hyperlinks shared among migrants’ families and friends are clearly influencing and directing my respondents’ media consumption patterns.

Mobility as a Lifestyle Choice

The second factor that I found influencing the relationship between self-identities and media consumption in these migrants’ lives relates to physical international mobility. Traveling and living in different countries leads to the development of the concept of mobility over a lifetime—or “lifestyle mobility”—in their imagination (Cohen et al. 2013). Several of my interviewees exhibited ongoing transnational mobility as a lifestyle choice, leading different lifestyles and consuming different media according to their presence in different countries. The concept of mobility over a lifetime among some of my respondents was developed naturally from the sense of belonging to various communities they had been members of. This sense of belonging was maintained, in part, through media consumption (as well as continual travel to these places). Consumption of narrative media that relate to travelling and experiencing adventures influenced the self-identities of several respondents, augmenting their desire for “lifestyle mobility.” Frequent travelling imprinted on the psyche of some respondents a nomadic identity of mobility and versatility, with their varied media consumption patterns supporting these aspirations.

There is the possibility that new media technologies are creating a different sense of community and identity from the old print and televisual media that were used to imagine traditional nation states and diasporic communities. Migrants who are computer-savvy are able to utilize the Internet through miniaturized media devices to access their preferred media content whenever and wherever they want. They are able to travel internationally and live in different countries without having to suffer significant loss of their preferred narrative media. Online social networks like Facebook have made it easy for migrants to continue being connected to their network of families and friends. This helps decrease the impact of migrants’ loss of physical contact with family and friends in their home countries. The advancement in Internet technology and miniaturized media devices has enabled migrants to feel more mobile internationally, with the ability to continue accessing their social networks and favorite media content. This has made it easier for migrants to develop the concept of “lifestyle mobility” in their imagination. However, migrants who are not able to utilize these new media technologies perhaps feel less readily mobile internationally.

Mobility of Media and International Travel

The research for this thesis leads me to postulate that a relationship is forming between the mobility of media in everyday life and the international mobility of people, particularly migrants. The advancement in Internet technology and miniaturized media devices is fueling people’s desires and aspirations for international travel. (The Internet lowers cultural barriers by providing a tremendous amount of information including travel recommendations and good deals with regards to transportation, accommodation and tours.) It also provides a platform for people to share their lifestyles and aspirations. Blogs and social media networks enable people to share information about their activities, lifestyles and aspirations. The information sharing by families and friends on Facebook of photos and videos of their activities has the power to influence others in their social network to desire to travel and experience these activities too. The international mobility of people has increased greatly as the costs of international travel have decreased, especially with the introduction of budget airlines. Travel information on the Internet has also helped lower travel costs for people as it enables them to book flights, accommodation and tours without requiring travel agent intermediaries. The decrease in the cost of international travel has reduced geographical barriers, making it easier for people to fulfill their aspirations for travel and adventure.

Impact and Interpretation

My research offers insights into how narrative media consumption through new media technologies has influenced the on-going construction of identities and sense of belonging on the part of the migrants studied. The increasing reflexivity I find among my respondents extends to reflections about their ethnic and national identities at a level that extends beyond their actions and decisions involving what kind of media to consume. These migrants are actively creating their own identities through media consumption, thereby becoming increasingly involved in producing their own DIY biographies (Beck, 2009). Furthermore, the concept of “lifestyle mobility” is important to most of my respondents (Cohen et al. 2013). In the majority of my respondents’ minds, international travel and living in different countries have led to the development of the concept of mobility over a lifetime.

The construction of self-identity is an ongoing complex process. Although there may be many factors influencing the formation of self-identity, the power of media consumption in it cannot be underestimated. I hope my findings will provide further understanding of the process of migrants’ self-identity formation, including their cultural identity and sense of belonging to a place.


Beck, Ulrich. 2009. “Losing the Traditional: Individualization and Precarious Freedoms.” In Identity in Question, edited by Anthony Elliott, and Paul du Gay, 14-33. London: Thousand Oaks.

Christiansen, Connie C. 2004. “News Media Consumption among Immigrants in Europe: The Relevance of Diaspora.” Ethnicities 4(2): 185-207.

Cohen, Scott, Tara Duncan, and Maria Thulemark. 2013. “Lifestyle Mobilities: The Crossroads of Travel, Leisure and Migration.” Mobilities 2013. Accessed September 4, 2013. Doi:10.1080/17450101.2013.826481.

Georgiou, Myria. 2004. “Consuming Ethnic Media, Constructing Ethnic Identities, Shaping Communities: A Case Study of Greek Cypriots in London.” In Race/ Gender/Media: Considering Diversity Across Audience, Content, and Producers, edited by Rebecca A. Lind, 52-60. Needham Heights, MA: Allyn & Bacon.

Metykova, Monika. 2010. “Only a Mouse Click Away From Home: Transnational Practices of Eastern European Migrants in the United Kingdom.” Social Identities 16(3): 325-338.

Sinclair, John, Audrey Yue, Gay Hawkins, Kee PooKong, and Josephine Fox. 2000. “Chinese Cosmopolitanism and Media Use.” In Floating Lives: The Media and Asian Diasporas, edited by Stuart Cunningham and John Sinclair, 35-90. St. Lucia: University of Queensland Press.

Sun, Wanning, Audrey Yue, John Sinclair, and Jia Gao. 2011. “Diasporic Chinese Media in Australia: A post-2008 overview.” Continuum: Journal of Media and Cultural Studies 25(4): 515-527.

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