A Grounded Theory of Radio Listening as Company Among Older Listeners

Hammill, Amber Margaret
Mollgaard, Matt
Wright-St Clair, Valerie
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Doctor of Philosophy
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Auckland University of Technology

Despite the ubiquity of the idea that radio listening provides company, there is little understanding of the mechanisms by which this is achieved. This study aims to understand how older radio listeners experience the radio as company. This research is conducted using a feminist, constructivist grounded theory methodology. Participants were recruited using snowballing, word of mouth, advertisement, and media promotion. All participants were living independently in Auckland or the Waikato in Aotearoa New Zealand. Data were created using interviews and photography with the 15 radio listeners aged 75+ years who identified as using the radio for company. Of these listeners, 12 were women, 3 were men; 1 participant was Māori and 14 were not. Research conversations were conducted in participants’ homes, with one exception. Participants’ radios were photographed where they were commonly used. Data were analysed using grounded theory methods including coding, memoing, and diagramming. These methods were applied to both the textual and visual data. Data generation and analysis were concurrent, allowing for constant comparative analysis for the duration of the research. Radio listening offered a means for older listeners to remain in dialogue with a self, and to see that identity reflected and contextualised in the listening community. In this way, radio listening was experienced as company. Listeners used time, space, and taste as boundaries in which to manage their identity work while listening. For these older listeners, radio listening was a tool with which to undertake identity work, and through which to appreciate their sense of social identity. Since a sense of social identity is a proactive factor in avoiding loneliness, radio could be a powerful tool in mitigating the conditions which give rise to loneliness. This research has implications for how radio frequencies and broadcasting infrastructure as public utility might be used to alleviate or curtail older people’s loneliness.

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