The significance of television characters

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The Significance of Television Characters for Young People (2004-2007)

The project aims to identify the TV characters who are relevant to young people aged 12 to 17; additionally it tries to understand their significance for identity development. An emphasis is placed on the process of establishing a gender identity as well as a cultural identity. The project covers two sub-projects which are being conducted by the IZI in co-operation with international experts.

A. Young people's favourite characters
The study examines the TV characters that are favoured by youngsters and what exactly they mean to them. The life worlds ("Lebenswelt") of 30 girls and 30 boys aged between 12 and 17 years are analysed. The aim of this study is to assess the central issues as well as the most favoured characters and to examine their meaning to the development of identity. (Realisation sample of girls: IZI, in charge: Dr. Maya Götz, project management: Petra Strohmaier, Karin Brunner; realisation sample of boys: RISP Tübingen, in charge: Dr. Reinhard Winter, Gunther Neubauer)

B. TV characters and the development of a cultural identity
This is the more nation specific part of the study. It aims at identifying the significance of TV characters for the development of cultural identity in youth in different countries by analysing various ethnographic single case studies. 6 single case studies of teenagers (14 to 15 years old) from the USA, India, South Africa and Germany have each been examined with regard to the meaning of TV characters and the individual viewer's establishment of cultural identity, including gender, ethnic, religious, national and local identity.
Typical moments observed in the single case studies will be discussed in groups and placed within the larger context of US American, Indian, South African and German identity development.
Finally, the potential of TV characters significant for the development of identity will be found out by reviewing the typical moments with regard to the possibilities they have to offer and the problems they might bear.

TelevIZIon 21/2008/E