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International Journal of Cultural Studies http://ics.sagepub.


Imagined user modes: Media morality in everyday life

Stina Bengtsson International Journal of Cultural Studies 2012 15: 181 originally published online 6 October 2011 DOI: 10.1177/1367877911416883 The online version of this article can be found at:

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ICSXXX10.1177/1367877911416883BengtssonInternational Journal of Cultural Studies

International Journal of Cultural Studies 15(2) 181196 The Author(s) 2011 Reprints and permission: journalsPermissions.nav DOI: 10.1177/1367877911416883

Imagined user modes: Media morality in everyday life

Stina Bengtsson


Sdertrn University, Sweden

This article deals with the moral dimensions of everyday media use. It discusses the values, strategies and norms of the moral economy of media use in everyday life. First, it identifies three different kinds of values connected with media texts and technologies. Second, it discusses different strategies to create a morally correct balance in everyday life. Third, it puts forward the concept of imagined user modes to deepen our understanding of the moral dimensions of everyday media use. Imagined user modes are preconceptions of different technologies and texts and relate to our ideas of how the media affect those who are using them. They are considered when negotiating with ourselves on proper behaviours in specific situations, and therefore they can be different, depending on individual value systems and ideas of a morally correct behaviour.

ethics, everyday life, media use, morality, moral economy

Since the early 1960s media research has discussed media use in terms of morality (see Alasuutari, 1992; Gauntlett and Hill, 1999; Hagen, 1994, 2000; Hoover et al., 2004; Jansson, 1998; Jensen et al., 1993; Silverstone, 2007; Silverstone and Hirsch, 1992; Skeggs et al., 2008; Steiner, 1963, etc.). Alasuutari (1992), among others, has pointed to the fact that peoples media discourses are a profoundly moral issue (see also Hagen, 2000; Skeggs et al., 2008; Steiner, 1963). From earlier media research we know that the moral dimensions of media use are related to aspects of lifestyle, gender, age and other social and cultural factors. Women, especially in their active mothering years, are more likely than men to express moral concerns about media use (Alasuutari, 1992; Jensen et al., 1993; Morley, 1986; Steiner, 1963), older people are more morally concerned than the
Corresponding author: Stina Bengtsson, Centre for Baltic and East European Studies (CBEES), Sdertrns hgskola/University, S-141 89 Huddinge, Sweden. Email:

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young are (Alasuutari, 1992; Jensen et al., 1993, etc.), and class-based taste hierarchies also trigger discussions on the morality of media use differently in different social strata (Jensen et al., 1993; Skeggs et al., 2008). The temporal and spatial framings of situations and individual lifestyle parameters as well as work, spare time and family obligations are all important factors for understanding the morality of media use in everyday life. But there are other factors as well. In this article I argue that to understand the moral dimensions of media use more deeply it is important also to investigate further our relationship with the media themselves, or more correctly the way people think and talk about the media as technologies and texts. By putting forward the concept imagined user modes I want to shed light on the audiences preconceptions about what happens for them when they interact with a specific medium and how they (or, for that matter, the people around them) act and react when using different media technologies and texts. These imagined modes are thus negotiated in relation to the specific situation of media use (day/night, home/away, other obligations/duties) in order to find a justified way to let the media into the everyday life structure. My analysis is based on an empirical study of a broad range of media users in Sweden and Finland during the years 19972005 (for a more elaborate discussion see the section on Materials and methods). I have analysed both how the respondents let the media into their lives (that is, when and where the media is used) and why different kinds of media use feel appropriate in specific situations but not in others (for example, why some people feel it is morally satisfactory to watch television in the evening but not during the day). Also related are feelings triggered by different kinds of media use in specific situations (pleasure, guilt, shame, pride, etc.). From this I have themed my presentation in three parts: values connected with (different kinds of) media use, strategies to let the media into everyday life in a morally justified way, and discursive orders of media use. In the following I will begin by focusing on values related to media texts and media use. The discussion on values is related to media use that the respondents mainly regard as good. This will be followed by a discussion of strategies to construct everyday media use in a morally acceptable way, a discussion mainly revolving around media use the respondents regard as shameful and problematic. Third, I will discuss the ways the respondents talk about media use in terms of texts and technologies, concluding with a discussion of three discursive orders of media use; and finally I will further elaborate on, and discuss, the concept of imagined user modes as a way to understand more deeply how we let the media into the shifting spheres of everyday life.

Media morality in everyday life

The concept of morality and its relation to ethics, with which it is associated, is far from fixed. Roger Silverstone, in his late works on media morality in a globalized world, uses the terms as follows:
The moral refers to the generality of principles, and to the possibility of their justification. Ethics, I intend, is the application of those principles in particular social or historical, personal or professional, contexts. (Silverstone, 2007: 7)

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Following Immanuel Kant (1987 [1920]: 910) and later Zygmunt Bauman (1995: 11, 33ff.), an oppositional relationship between the concepts is at hand. According to Kant (1987 [1920]: 910), ethics is synonymous with moral philosophy and is constituted of overarching theories: a kind of moral code. Ethics may sometimes even work as a code of law: regulations that prescribe action (Bauman, 1995: 11, 33ff.). Morality, on the other hand, deals with specific problems and their solutions, and is constituted of feelings, thoughts and actions connected with the distinction between right and wrong (Bauman, 1995: 11, 33ff.; Kant, 1987 [1920]: 910; Kohlberg, 1974 [1971]: 151236), and is thus more intimately related to concrete action and specific situations and negotiations. According to Bauman, ethics is located outside the individual as a system to relate to, while the individual must come to moral conclusions on his/her own. Friedrich Nietzsche even asserted that ethics is the morality of the lowly and the downtrodden, as the truly morally informed individual would not be in need of any moral guidance (Nietzsche, 2003 [1887]; see also Bauman, 1995: 38). Based on the discussion above and following earlier media research on this subject (see Alasuutari, 1999; Gauntlett and Hill, 1999; Hagen, 1994, 2000; Hoover et al., 2004; Jansson, 1998; Jensen et al., 1993; Silverstone and Hirsch, 1992; Skeggs et al., 2008; Steiner, 1963), in this analysis I will use the concept of morality rather than ethics to discuss the respondents practices, values and feelings related to media use in everyday life. But how can morality be studied? According to Alasuutari (1992), in his work on Finnish peoples evaluation of different television genres, peoples value hierarchies more or less match their moral hierarchies (see also Hagen, 2000; Hijer, 1999). Values related to media use are central since they reflect what we find good, bad and just in media use, and the values the respondents relate to media use form one part of this study. To also include our everyday practices in the analysis, I have taken into account the concept of moral economy, originally coined by historian E.P. Thompson (1963) in an analysis of class dimensions and struggles in British 19th-century society. Moral economy describes the way different groups in society, for example social classes, share unspoken ideas on societal rights, obligations and economy. Moral economy can thus be understood as partly synonymous to ethics as it is connected to values and preconceptions paving the way for moral evaluations and practices. Silverstone and Hirsch (1992) have suggested moral economy as a way to understand our media use in everyday life (see also Bakardjieva, 2005), particularly its spatial and temporal organization and its relation to values. They argue that:
Indeed, the media pose a whole set of control problems for the household, problems of regulation and of boundary maintenance. These are expressed generally in the regular cycle of moral panics around new media or new media content, but on an everyday level, in individual households, they are expressed through decisions to include and exclude media content and to regulate within the household who watches what and listens to and plays with and uses what. (Silverstone and Hirsch, 1992: 20)

The moral economy of the household can thus be identified in the four stages of things: appropriation (the purchase of an object and its inclusion in the material stock of the household), objectification (the showing and spatial organization of the object),

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incorporation (the objects use in everyday life and temporal organization) and conversion (the exchange of the item as an indication of significance in relation to the surrounding society, Silverstone and Hirsch, 1992: 215). In this article, focusing on media use in everyday life, the two middle dimensions of objectification and incorporation are my focal interest. They comprise values and practices of everyday media use in different situations (within as well as outside the household), concern the spatial and temporal dimension that are central to any discussion of everyday life (see Goffman, 1959, 1974; Schtz, 1973) and focus primarily on the values and negotiations of the individual according to his or her moral judgements. To truly penetrate the significance of the media in everyday life negotiations I also look particularly at how the respondents relate to the media as technologies and text, and how they relate to the significance of these dimensions in their everyday lives. The moral dimensions of media use in everyday life are thus looked upon in three main ways: first, as values of media use, part of our moral reasoning and negotiations; second, as the objectification and incorporation of media artefacts, that is, the moral economy of media use. This dimension has been taken into account by looking particularly at strategies to deal with and legitimate particularly shameful parts of media use in everyday life. Third, and last, I have considered the discourses of media use, that is, how people think and talk about the media in their everyday lives.

Materials and methods

The following analysis is based upon qualitative material comprised of 52 individual interviews and 12 focus group interviews1 conducted in Sweden and Finland during the period 19972005. The individual interviews concerned media use in everyday life in a broad sense and revolved around, besides sheer usage of the media, values and feelings related to different kinds of media use. Respondents have been sought out in different socio-cultural areas of the Swedish cities of Gothenburg and Stockholm, as well as in the Swedish countryside and the Finnish island of land. The respondents ages ranged from 19 to 91 years old, and they were chosen to construct a body of material with great variety when it comes to age, sex, lifestyle and social class. The interviews took approximately 12 hours each and were conducted in the respondents homes. The focus group interviews were constructed as reception interviews in which the interviewees were shown short excerpts from two different programmes broadcast on one public service and one commercial channel on Swedish television in the late 1990s. The TV programmes themselves are of minor importance here as the more contextual discussions on media use in everyday life, which were also part of the focus group interviews, are closer to the analytical themes. Two types of discussions were constructed by the two different kinds of interviews. The individual in-depth interviews were more directly oriented towards media use as an individual practice, while the focus group interviews included more contextual discussions concerning the behaviours and values of other media users, producer perspectives and broader societal dimensions of media use. In the analysis, however, I have focused on values and ideas of media use as an everyday practice, as well as related discourses revolving around the morality of media use.

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There is of course a risk, especially in interviews touching upon dimensions of right and wrong, that people construct their routines and everyday habits in order to look good to the researcher, and that the research situation triggers discussions that would not have appeared otherwise (see Skeggs et al., 2008). As Jrgen Habermas (1988 [1976]) has pointed out, there is often a lack of coherence between moral consciousness and moral action. Since the focus here is on the moral reasoning (consciousness) of media use, and not the very usage (action) in itself, this is a minor problem. The values expressed in the interviews as well as the discourses are important for our understanding of the morality of media use even though the respondents might present their behaviours to look good in the interviews. This discussion is further developed in Bengtsson (2007).

Everyday values and media use

This discussion deals with media use that the respondents find valuable and good. The following presentation will be structured along a range of three different kinds of values that have been constructed from the interviews: activity, learning and aesthetic values. These groups of values are not entirely distinguishable, and some of the quotes presented below can be used to exemplify two, or more, of them.

Activity values
The value of being an active audience is a central aspect in the interviews and is connected to the dichotomy of the opposite terms activity and passivity. This dichotomy surfaces in the interviews primarily in two ways: first through emphasizing the importance of being an active media user and, second, in the construction of a passive media user as a low other (cf. Stallybrass and White, 1986: 5ff.) used to normalize ones own behaviour and nature, and make it look good (see also Schulze et al., 1993). The importance of being an active media user is expressed in many different ways. The first is found in the nostalgic impression that, in pre-media times, people did more things together and interacted more face-to-face, something that passive contemporary media users are believed to be too lazy to do. The second is the idea that media use, especially socially and culturally institutionalized sorts like watching television with the family or attending specific media events, manifests subordination to a structure controlled by someone else, up above something this father in his 40s, who feels trapped and passive on the living room couch with his family, articulates:
I really dislike all those programmes on Friday and Saturday evenings when the whole family is supposed to sit down together in cosiness. All those programmes when millions of people sit down and watch a few people doing fun things, and they dont do anything themselves. You eat your crisps and sit down and watch thats quite hard for me.

The resigned reluctance of this man is an effect of his social situation, whereby living with wife and children forces him to organize his life in relation to the norms of society and social institutions (school, nurseries, other parents, etc.). The third way of expressing fear of being a passive media user shows another, more colourful, face: disgust. Disgust

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is a feeling that emotionally degrades the morale of the person who evokes it by making him/her despise his/her behaviour, and is an expression of fear (in western cultures) of the corporeal, loose, flabby and uncultivated (Miller, 1997: 8, 3858). Disgust is therefore constructed in relation to the passive low other. In a focus group discussion in which three women discussed the American-style, but Swedish, talk show Rene, one 24-year-old woman claimed that the regular viewers of the show were uncritical, nonintellectual and indifferent:
Interviewer: Magdalena: But who do you think is watching then? You say their target group is young people, but who is really watching it? Inactive people, those who watch almost anything on TV. People that arent very critical. Those who hardly give a damn what theyre watching as long as its something.

The fear of being a passive media user is also found in strategies to resist the passivity of media use. These kinds of strategies have been well known in media research ever since David Morley in the early 1980s showed that British housewives had to iron or knit in front of the television (1986: 1502, 15962; see also Gray, 1992; Radway, 1984, etc.). Strategies of this kind also appear in this study, but in many different ways: Liisa, a woman in her 50s, has thrown away her remote control to force herself to get out of the armchair when she wants to switch channels. The family father mentioned above, who is a musician, usually practises drumming (silently) while watching TV with his family, or plays the guitar if there is music on:
Its hard for me to just sit still and consume, I prefer to do something more. I turn the music on a bit louder and a play with it. Carefully, of course, so the others can still hear.

Many people, just like the housewives in David Morleys Family Television (1986), keep up an activity parallel to their media use as a strategy to resist the passivity of media use. As television is a morally degraded media (cf. Hagen, 2000), consuming another more intellectual media, like a morning paper, while watching television is such a strategy.

Learning values
The importance of the intellectual dimension in the activity values is in fact strong enough to create a value of its own: learning values. Learning values in media use have also been found in other studies (cf. Hagen, 1992; Hill, 2005; Hijer, 1999; Livingstone, 1988; Radway, 1984). Here, the value of learning is expressed by three dimensions: first, the importance of facts and information in media content; second, the meaning-making dimension of media use and, third, the importance of time; that using media must be durable and not just for the moment. The learning values were most explicit in the focus group interviews as the actual information presented, or lacking, in the TV programmes was important for the respondents evaluation of them. One woman defined a particularly good programme as one that makes you want to pick up a pen and a paper to write down what they just said. This also highlights the importance of durability in media use, which will be further discussed later. A more abstract part of the learning values

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highlights the meaning-making dimensions of media use. Here learning is discussed as a widened understanding of phenomena: other societies, cultures or individuals. This dimension points more explicitly towards the learning dimensions of fiction. A woman in her 30s names the annual film festival in her hometown as her favourite way to learn things that are hard to gain knowledge of in other ways:
I find that very exciting, very educating. Thinking about the film festival and all the foreign films they show there. To me its just thrilling watching those films, since I learn so much about other cultures that I couldnt ever learn in any other way. I can see it, the mentality, how the culture works and its amazing.

The importance of a learning dimension in media use can also be expressed as an antithesis. Another woman in her young adult years gave her television to her parents since she started to feel that it simply stole her time but never gave her anything back:
Interviewer: Helena: What do you mean when you say that it didnt give you anything? My life was never richer while watching some TV programme that was just entertainment stuffed with commercials. I dont know. I never learnt anything from it well, not that everything has to be so damn productive, but I didnt even enjoy it, it was just killing time.

Here the importance of durability is obvious and the permanence of media use is a vital part of the learning values. It is important, not least, in the discussions of the growing generation, an important subject in moral discussions. One middle-aged mother of four has preferences for what kind of media content her children should consume, although she does not limit their media use in many other ways.
Marit: Interviewer: Marit: I usually say, Well, some Disney is always good for you. So they usually watch Disney films? In what way is it good for them? Most of their films, even though some of them can be frightening in the eyes of children, often have a message. There are others, like Nickelodeon, thats I dont think it gives them anything.

The messages in the Disney films transform the time the children spend in front of the television from a time for rest, or a pure waste of time, into a meaningful and durable occasion they will carry with them even after the DVD player has been switched off.

Aesthetic values
The aesthetic values are themed around the textual qualities of media content, emphasizing form and artistic skills. These values are connected to the emotional dimensions of media use, and illustrate how texts can open doors for the audience to walk through, and awaken feelings and emotions. The aesthetic values are based on an experience of beauty far from limiting moral boundaries (cf. Bourdieu, 1996 [1992]: 16979; Campbell, 1987). A longing for this kind of experience can dominate the choice of media, as it does for the middle-aged woman who states that she only watches (primarily) beautiful and

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(secondarily) serious films at the cinema. Another respondent, a man, also stresses the artistic and emotional experience when choosing films:
The most important thing for me about films is that I get a I hardly dare to say it, but a highly qualitative artistic experience, so to speak. Where acting is great and youre swept away with it. I find that those films give me the most. Many people go to the cinema as sheer entertainment but I find that of course it is entertainment for me too, but I like films you really have to reflect on afterwards and deconstruct and

There is less need to legitimate the aesthetic values by claiming their value for something else, outside themselves; aesthetic values exist in their own right. This does not mean, though, that aesthetic values are exclusive to traditional high culture they are also discussed in relation to popular culture. Jeanette, a young woman in her 20s, lives in a poor suburb outside a larger town. She is studying for a high school diploma and reads novels for many hours every day. Her preferences include fantasy, fiction and romantic novels, selections that go along with her other interests in life (for example, she has often attended courses in regression hypnosis, in which she meets her former selves in previous lives). Her engagement in literature is almost a mission, and she wants the people around her to understand how wonderful her favourite books are: When I read something that I like, I want everyone to read it! She is well aware that her literary preferences are culturally low, but claims at the same time that her favourite genres are great and explains how her reading experience sweeps her away:
Well, its that you get into you disappear into the book, so to speak. You follow it []. It grips me with such incredible strength. Almost too much. It sounds silly when you explain it, but

Earlier studies have shown how users, despite the dimension of desire in their use, try to legitimate their preferences by claiming learning value (cf. Livingstone, 1988; Radway, 1984). For example, they claim that stories teach them about historic times, which points to a division between two ethical systems: one Puritan and one Hedonistic (cf. Campbell, 1987; Radway, 1984). Even though Jeanette is aware that her literary preferences are less legitimate in the eyes of others, she still puts desire and passion first when choosing what to read and shows no need to also claim learning dimensions when discussing her reading. These three groups of values express different ways people discuss their media use. But media use is also dependent upon the structure of everyday life, and the material, social and cultural possibilities to organize life. Hence it is easy to link the values of media use with moral economy and our striving to create balance in everyday life. Time is money is an internationally well-known proverb, but the discussion above reveals that there are many different ways to measure time. In the following part of the article I will discuss how the values of media use are integrated into the moral economy of everyday life.

The moral economy of everyday media use

In the interviews, the moral economy of everyday life is mostly constructed as strategies for handling the media when it is not regarded as entirely good and uncomplicated. This

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also means that the discussions particularly dealt with time as a finite resource, and that organizing life meaningfully entails that you have to consider its limits. In the following discussion media use will be dealt with as an exchange value, and the ways in which the respondents deal with their media use in relation to other daily activities and tasks, to create an ethically balanced everyday life will be analysed. Three different strategies for handling this kind of media use turn up in the interviews: first, media use as something that should be avoided, second, media use as an investment for the future and, third, media use as a reward.

The avoidance strategy

The discussion so far has dealt with values of different sorts, but some kinds of media use can also be hard to value at all. Two different metaphors are part of the avoidance strategy: first, the media as a thief that steals time without giving anything back and, second, the media as a despot that forces us to do things against our free will. The thief metaphor is easy to understand and needs no further explanation. One woman expresses her feeling as: I find time so valuable that I cant afford to spend time in front of the TV. If Im not really interested I think I have better things to do. The despot metaphor, on the other hand, depicts the media as a force that dominates and takes control of individuals as well as of social interaction. The despot metaphor may also appear in relation to media content that is considered to be of good quality, not only useless kinds. For Per-Fredric, a freelance journalist in his 30s, the computer game he regularly plays symbolizes his media despot. He is very fond of playing historic strategy games, but sometimes feels that the computer rules him and makes him forget about the world outside.
Interviewer: Per-Fredric: Do you play computer games? Unfortunately, yes, because its dangerous. Unfortunately because I know that I lack the strength to resist it. I can sit sometimes I feel embarrassed because I havent really the power to resist it, so I play all evening and late at night when Im supposed to start work early the next morning. That destroys a lot for me.

The same kinds of preconception also appear when people create restrictions for their own media use, for example avoiding certain TV series because they are regarded as too influential in life. These preconceptions contain a fear of the media and a lack of confidence in ones own ability to stand firm in the face of the media content (cf. Jensen et al., 1993: 78ff; Larsen, 2000: 176). The role of the media in the moral economy of the household is even more problematic when the media content is regarded as valuable in any, or many, ways and must be integrated into the everyday structure. The two following strategies are also used in relation to a media use that is looked upon as useful, although problematic, in everyday life.

Media use as an investment for the future

Seeing media use as an investment for the future means that the prime value of using the media emerges only after the user act. Viewing media use in this way means that you

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exchange the time spent using the media with other values. One example is the already discussed learning values, whereby the time spent using the media is rewarded through new knowledge that can also be useful in situations to come. Some respondents thus claim that they only watch reality soaps because it is of such interest from a professional point of view (as they work as managers, or have studied psychology, or are interested in group dynamics, etc.). In this way they discursively legitimate a shameful media use and turn it into a meaningful act. Sarah, a university student, has created restrictions for when different kinds of media use are forbidden or allowed. Television is not allowed until 5 pm, since in daytime she restricts herself to her university literature. Nevertheless, she allows herself a long session with the morning paper at lunch as a way to take a break from the study of literature. Although she knows that her thorough reading of the paper keeps her away from studying, the learning values of reading the paper still provide a proper excuse:
Interviewer: Sarah: Is it important to read the paper? No, I dont feel I have to do it to continue the day or anything; its more a way to stay away from other things I think [ha-ha]. Because I feel Im still learning something, or it gives me something, rather than switching the television on. Cause thats kind of a taboo, when youre a student.

Another way to legitimate shameful media use is to state that it is a way to have a necessary moment of relaxation. In the long run, a period of respite can be in favour of production since it maintains the overall production level (cf. Campbell, 1987: 60ff.; Weber, 1968 [1930]). Nadia, an artistically educated woman in middle age, freelances and therefore masters her professional life by herself. Sometimes she feels she works too hard, and since she lives alone it is hard for her to stay away from work when she is at home. But she considers it inefficient to work too much physically, socially as well as professionally and therefore regularly turns on the TV to force herself to rest. She considers the programmes she watches to be culturally low, but feels their role in her everyday structure is important. For her, being absorbed by trash TV is a period of complete and important rest, after which she can continue her work with new, fresh, potential.
Nadia: Interviewer: Nadia: After that I always take a pause in my work, at eleven or twelve at night. And I usually just put trash TV on. I usually watch complete crap. Is it action or? Yes or, I dont even know what it is, its what comes up. Action and those kind of violent things, I cant watch that because thats not relaxing. But there are others, some kinds of crime stories that can be nice sometimes. So its pure relaxation then, at night? Whatever comes up? Yes, thats right. When youve finished your days work, sort of, or need to get away from what youre working with. Then I usually watch that, and I can jump into the programme at the beginning or at the end

Interviewer: Nadia:

Campbell (1987) states that this way of emphasizing the reproductive dimension of rest should be regarded as the second dimension of modernity and of the ethics of industrial society. Although Nadia masters her working hours by herself, her construction of her

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night-time TV-watching as rational recreation (cf. Weber, 1968 [1930]: 74) shows that she still organizes her working hours according to the norms of industrial society.

Media use as a reward: a transaction with the past

Media use as a reward means spending time with the media that you have gained by some other, already accomplished, duty. In this symbolic trade, the media represent a reward allowed after a task well done. Just as in the discussion on rational recreation, media use at this point represents an opposition to our everyday duties. Thus, in this case, the time to use media has been gained in advance, rather than using media in order to create good opportunities to fulfil your duties in the future. The strategy of media use as a reward means that shameful media use is made legitimate by the highly dutiful activity it is a reward for. It is thus explicitly related to formerly completed tasks. Katrina and Mirko, Croatian immigrants living in Sweden, explicitly use TV-viewing as a reward: We usually work first and watch TV afterwards. Thats how we do it and we tell our daughter to clean her room first and then she can watch TV. The free time obtained through the hard work is therefore used to legitimate pleasure and lust in everyday life. Jeanette, the novel-reading woman mentioned earlier, expresses the same idea in another way:
Interviewer: Jeanette: Do you ever read fashion magazines? No. Or sometimes I do. If I sit down and wait for something, or if Ive been studying really hard, then I usually feel like: yes, now Im free, now Ill buy myself a magazine!

The respondents express the above-discussed dimensions as functions in everyday life. Since they need to legitimate the media use discussed here, its functional dimensions in everyday life offer a way to explain shameful behaviour.

Media specificity as morality

Media use is affiliated with certain cultural values, involved in the creation of a balance of duty, desire, pleasure and labour. The cultural hierarchy implicit in the phenomena discussed above come out differently in different kinds of user situations as well as in individual preconceptions of the content and form of different kinds of media. Media specificity here relates to the ideas the respondents have about the very nature of different kinds of media, relating to them as technologies and texts. In the following, the moral dimension of these ideas will be discussed. Cultural hierarchies change slowly, and therefore it is not surprising that the ideas of television and print media use expressed by the respondents in this study appear in almost identical ways in an American study from the early 1960s (Steiner, 1963). Those ideas claim that reading books is more valuable than watching television since it is more associated with work and is therefore not considered a waste of time in the same way (1963: 56). The respondents in this study also feel better after having read a book than after wasting time in front of the telly. The preconceptions behind this dichotomy are shown in the different TV restrictions

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some of the respondents create for themselves (and their families). Marit, an unemployed mother of four, would never watch television during the day, apart from a short glance at the news after the children have left for school, because that would make her feel terrible. At the same time she can, without any problem, use other kinds of media during the day:
Interviewer: Marit: But if you read the morning paper or [the tabloid] before lunch, would you feel bad in the same way then? [Shakes her head] Why is that? It might be that watching TV has this bad reputation. Like: What are you doing? Im watching TV. OK, then youre not doing anything. It might be that its a bigger effort to read a paper, I dont know. All I know is that I feel better.

These feelings of uselessness connected to daytime television viewing are explained by the discursive orders of media use that the respondents express, for example in the former discussion on values (see also Hagen, 2000; Hijer, 1999). Based on the above analyses of values and strategies of media use, and ideas about the specific nature of different kinds of media, three discursive orders can be suggested to describe the respondents ideas about the media technologies and media texts, together with ideas of what these technologies and texts do to those who use them. The discursive orders are: the discourse of attention, the discourse of activity and the discourse of media content. First, the discourse of attention deals with the level of attention required when using specific kinds of media. This discursive order primarily differentiates between kinds of media that demand higher and lower levels of attention in the user act.2 Books or computer games are media technologies that are considered attention-demanding. By this we learn that the discourse of level of attention only partly overlaps the hierarchies of high and low culture. This discursive order also holds another dimension: the possibility to perform a parallel activity when using the media. This explains why listening to the radio is very seldom an issue in discussions on the moral dimensions of media use as it is easily combined with other activities and seems less attention-demanding (and thus less timeconsuming) in itself. The second discursive order is the discourse of activity, which gathers preconceptions on how active we feel while using a certain kind of media (cf. Hagen, 2000; Hijer, 1999). The more active we feel in the user situation, the better it is. This discursive order is especially important during the day, as the moral frames of daytime are often more Puritan. Two dimensions of this discourse are singled out: first, the opposition between reading (books) and watching (television), which is a strong theme in many of the interviews. And, following this, the feeling of being productive when reading, putting forward ones own imagination and creativity. The third discursive dimension is the discourse of media content, which deals with ideas on the media content and relates to the previously discussed values: activity, learning and aesthetic values. Media content affiliated with these kinds of values is therefore regarded as better than others, and thus as less problematic in relation to rivalling activities in everyday life. This distinction explains how it can feel great to be absorbed by a well-thought-of novel, but not at all great when the television dominates the whole room.

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Imagined user modes and the morality of everyday media use

Negotiations about media use in everyday life relate to values, everyday strategies and discursive orders of media technologies and texts. It is obvious that media users in the variable everyday lives of modern society deal with shifting frames and norms of different temporal and spatial contexts. The discussion above asserts that ideas of who we become, how we act and react in different user situations form an important dimension of our understanding of how we organize our media use in everyday life (cf. Hagen, 2000; Hijer, 1999). Different everyday situations construct different user modes that we adjust to when confronted with a particular medium in a particular milieu (cf. Stockfelt, 1988). One specific user mode is required when listening to a Mozart symphony in a concert hall, and another when listening to the same symphony in the elevator at a hotel. Following the analysis presented in this article, I argue that there are also imagined user modes that we carry with us and negotiate in our daily dealings with the media. These imagined user modes are preconceptions of how dominated we become by different kinds of media (i.e. how much attention they demand from us), how active we are in certain user situations or what kinds of surplus values specific kinds of media use can give us (i.e. learning, emotional values, etc.). They are not related to the media text or technology in itself, but rather to ideas of different technologies and texts and, more specifically, to ideas of how they affect their users. Former studies of everyday media morals have pointed to these modes, although using different terms. Hijer (1999) calls this dimension meta cognition or simply regards it as a meta perspective on the audience (created by the audience). Hagen (2000) highlights a viewer position that the audience takes into account when morally negotiating how to use the media.3 Compared to these discussions, the concept imagined user modes offers a more precise explanation of the meta cognitive dimension or the idea of user positions. The concept of mode indicates that it deals with imaginations of media use as acts, that is, imaginations of how to use the media (listen, watch, read, play, etc.). These modes are based on our ideas of the media as technology and text but are also negotiated in relation to different everyday life situations. They are thus continually constructed and evaluated in relation to diverse kinds of media user acts in different situations. These imagined user modes are considered when negotiating proper behaviours in particular situations when considering what to listen to, read, watch or play as well as when and where and are therefore dependent on the value system of the individual and his/her ideas of morally correct behaviour. They are a vital element in the culturally constructed norms that shape the moral frames of everyday media use, but also in the construction of environments for different situations in everyday life. We consider them when we include or exclude particular media from different rooms at home (No TV in the kitchen, Only classical music in my office) or allow specific mixes of media at particular times of the day (When the children come home from school, everything is on at the same time and you cant hear anything). An imagined user mode is a preconception of what a particular user situation will do to its user and guides the moral construction of the mediatized everyday life.

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International Journal of Cultural Studies 15(2)

It is important to mention that these modes are imagined, that they do not exist either in the mediated text or the user context; nor can they be assumed in any user. In comparison with the related Althusserian interpellation (Althusser, 1971: 1623), the imagined user mode is not an ideological position within the media text but is a combination of the users ideas of the medium as artefact and technology as well as text. Like interpellation, the imagined user modes cannot be chosen freely but rather emerge from a combination of our experiences of using a medium and the qualities and characteristics we consider this medium to have. Relating to a particular user mode is also contextually dependent; different temporal and spatial situations are affiliated with different normative frames and the user modes are thus interpreted differently in different situations. An imagined user mode is thus created through a combination of our imaginations of the spatial domination of a specific medium (how it affects space), the specific user situation and the idea of the media content at hand. They are also dependent on the value system of the user, and different people value different modes differently.4 The preconceptions, and evaluation, of the imagined user modes are dependent on both normative understandings of the organization of everyday life and the profound values individuals connect with media use. Funding
This research has partly been funded by the The Foundation for Baltic and East European Studies.

1 2 3 4 Three to six people were part of each focus group. These discourses have close connections to Marshall McLuhans (1964) theories on hot and cold media, and their informativeness. In a discussion of television viewing only. Of course also relating to our class-, gender- and age based value structure. It is for example well known that women with young children tend to be more morally concerned than women (and men) in other situations in life (cf. Jensen, 1993, etc.).

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Stina Bengtsson is researcher and lecturer in Media and Communication Studies at Sdertrn University, Sweden. Her background is in audience and everyday life research and she is currently doing research on the everyday life of virtual world Second Life. Among her publications are the books The Don Quixote of Youth Culture and Mediernas vardagsrum: Medieanvndning och moral i vardagslivet (Mediated Living Rooms: Moral Dimension of Media Use in Everyday Life).

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