While I’m not expecting anyone to have particularly noticed, I myself am very conscious that I really have been criminally negligent in tending to this blog of late.

The usual reasons: holiday, insanely busy at work, other projects that are very exciting but need loads of attention..

Once I returned I finally got around to looking at some of those drafted-but-never-finished posts that sit there waiting for you to decide what to do with them. Some just included a lone URL, clearly saved in draft form in a bookmarking capacity, never to be fully worked up into a theme. But a couple of embyronic posts were ones I really wished I’d got round to publishing.

One such draft was on an interesting piece of research that got published just under a year ago, by the LSE. It was written by Sonia Livingstone, Head of the Department for Media & Communications there, and was entitled ‘Media and The Family’.  The research examines quite closely the trends and developments in the way these two institutions are slowly re-shaping each other. There are conclusions, but they’re wisely tentative – in such a perennial debate the idea of things being fixed for too long is unlikely.

Anyway here it is in full.

There’s some fascinating tensions here.

If a fragmented media makes for a more varied set of values and influences within families, then it also enables a more diverse and empowering way for family members to assert their individual identities.

Younger internet users might well be considered ‘digital natives’, but they frequently are ill-equipped to get the most from their use – sometimes there can be problems from a lack of maturity, or sometimes from the pure lack resource or access.

None of this stuff sounds disruptive or earth-shattering. But balanced ambiguity rarely does.

(Mark always did say how useless I’d be on a rally – me and my love of grey areas.  What do we want? Well, that depends. When do we want it? When we’ve reached some kind of consensus between all interested parties…)

At the time, though, I thought it a nice riposte to those discussions you have where one faction says that the internet is terrible (turning us all in to zombies with minimal attention spans who can’t be bothered to remember anything, or speak to anyone, because, you know, we don’t have to, what with Google, GPS, the cloud, bookmarking and everything else we can do now wherever and whenever we want) while others dispute the internet’s responsibility for any of this (and even if it is then that’s nothing different to other pieces of technology that had everyone up in arms in olden times / days of yore – like the TV, the printing press, the wheel).

The scariest thing in all this is the sheer certainty with which some people see the world. I admit to the weakness of not really knowing what I think, yet. I’d like to remain agnostic for the time being.

But during my period of blog inactivity there was a far better example of how philosophical difference can be brought to bear on shared evidence. The UK riots and their attendant hand-wringing brought all sorts of attention to social media.

I loved the post Pats McDonald wrote on this for The Social Practice, flying the flag for the benevolence of social media.

I’ve always wondered whether we should see social media itself as either good nor bad. It merely is – and people’s interpretation of it says more about their own philosophical standpoint than it does anything intrinsic to social media itself.

But the LSE’s research reminds us of  the double meaning in ‘the medium is the message’. The medium isn’t merely whatever you choose to put into it, but the medium is our message to ourselves – we cannot helped but be changed by it.

Over time our behaviour, expectations, and socical interaction will all be affected in some way by the use of these tools. They are, after all, the archetypal ‘persuasive technologies’.

So, this research is to be appreciated, as it aims to do nothing more than objectively capture what it thinks is going on right now.

How people will interpret the conclusions is, of course, up to them….