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Operationalising Mannheim: Empirical Building Blocks of Generational Identity

digital Operationalising Mannheim: Empirical Building Blocks
of Generational Identity
issue COMUNICAZIONI SOCIALI - 2019 - 2. Generations, Time, and Media
title Operationalising Mannheim: Empirical Building Blocks of Generational Identity
publisher Vita e Pensiero
format Article | Pdf
online since 09-2019
doi 10.26350/001200_000061
issn 03928667 (print) | 18277969 (digital)
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The main goal of this paper is to make a methodological contribution to researching social and media generations quantitatively in representative population surveys. For this purpose, the paper employs a mixed-method approach: analysing an original questionnaire module on generational identity (developed for the Estonian population survey “Me. The World. The Media” 2014; N=1,503) is complemented with focus group interviewees’ (n=69) reflections on generation-building components. The paper concludes that Mannheimian and other theoretical concepts of generations can be operationalised for population survey research: the underlying structure of the categories of generational identity is in line with the theoretical constructs, adding some heuristic aspects for the comprehension of the hierarchical composition of generational identity. The analysis also reveals significant differences between age groups regarding all factor components and most of the individual categories of generational identity: structural components, related to life events, lifestyle and social status, were significantly more important to the younger generations than to the older age groups, while the importance of mental and cultural factors was significantly lower. Insights from the focus groups clearly reinforced previous studies’ warnings about overlooking individual variation in generations: participants with various backgrounds, particularly representatives of the two language communities, suggested an array of generation labels and the defining factors of generation building, thus confirming the Mannheimian idea of the existence of generational units.


Social generations; generational identity; survey methodology; Karl Mannheim; Estonia.

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