Reading listTheories: guidance on theorisingCO:RE at LSEPublished: 09 Dec 2021Last updated: 02 Nov 2022
Theorising - a guided reading list with key texts
This section offers methodological and conceptual guidance on theory – what is theory, approaches to developing theory, key challenges in theorising and how to overcome them. This has been designed especially for researchers and research users concerned with children’s digital lives. It focuses on the task, and associated challenges, of developing, applying, revising and reflecting on theory. Given the focus on children’s digital lives, it draws in particular on ideas about theory in the social sciences, including media and communication theory, comparative cultural theory, and theories of childhood and child development.
Clearly articulating new theories from research remains a challenge. Dankasa explains the concept of ‘theory’ and the different components that make up a theory before offering suggestion as to what makes a good theory based on collated advice from scholars.
Donsbach argues that scholars are limited in their ability to keep an overview of their disciplines as the field grows much faster than any scholar could process, hence the difficulty in offering a synopsis or claiming novelty. Furthermore, the scope of any such claims carries a bias.
This article argues that academic disciplines are social constructions – shaped by scholars and also shaping of scholars. It explores how disciplines have become taken for granted and argues that conceptualising disciplinary boundaries as fluid can enhance our thinking, while the juxtaposition of ideas or tools from different domains encourages new ideas.
Mitchell offers a discussion of what media theory is and how to theorise it. He suggests that media needs to be theorised according to several reference frameworks, including image/music/text (drawing on the work of Barthes), a model of communication, medium, time and pace.
In this article, Raetzsch interrogates how digital media shape our perceptions, and questions what is commonly understood. The text offers 10 propositions on how to understand and do media theory, including that media theory is transnational, interdisciplinary and applied, and has a context, motivation and position.
Rivard argues that researchers mistakenly hold the romantic view that theory is the result of a deductive process and should be flawless, while the outcomes of theorising are, in fact, often incomplete and require perseverance. Rivard offers a spiral model of theory building and proposes design principles.
This article proposes a general structure of theorising that relies on exploring empirical evidence, creativity and iteration. The steps of the model include observation, conceptualising and developing an early-stage theory with tentative explanations and justification that puts the tentative theory to the test.
Sonia Livingstone DPhil (Oxon), FBA, FBPS, FAcSS, FRSA, OBE, is a professor in the Department of Media and Communications at the London School of Economics and Political Science (UK). She currently directs the projects “Children’s Data and Privacy Online,” “Gobal Kids Online” (with UNICEF) and “Parenting for a Digital Future”, and she is Deputy Director of the UKRI-funded “Nurture Network.” Since founding the 33 countries EU Kids Online research network, Sonia has advised the UK government, European Commission, European Parliament, Council of Europe, OECD and UNICEF, among others, on children’s internet risks, safety, media literacy and rights in digital environments. She blogs at www.parenting.digital. She is leader of the CO:RE work package 5 on theory.
Mariya Stoilova is a post-doctoral researcher at the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) working on children’s rights, online risks and opportunities, and well-being. She is member of the CO:RE work package 5 on theory.
CO:RE at LSE
The team at the LSE works on theory, providing a series of mutually cross-fertilising mechanisms to coordinate and support the theoretical dimension of research. The team identifies valuable theoretical concepts that offer multidisciplinary breadth and depth in understanding the long-term impact of digital media on children and youth, and coallates all in a comprehensive theories toolkit that provides guidance throughout the theory pathway, from (research) question to generating theory.