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Understanding biographicity: Redesigning and reshaping lives in young adulthood Open Access

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Abstract of the DissertationUnderstanding Biographicity:Redesigning and Reshaping Lives in Young Adulthood This study explored biographicity as the process through which individuals repeatedly shape and reshape their lives to meet their own needs and desires in response to conditions of life in late modernity, a time of rapid social and economic change. The study highlighted the particular issues faced by marginalized populations, and especially urban young adults, who were the focus of the study. Using biographical research methodology, the study sought to understand the complex interplay between individuals and the constraints and/or supports of social structures and contexts. Seventeen adults, aged 23 to 32, participated. The participants attended high-poverty urban schools where historically fewer than 50% of students receive a high school diploma. Each was the first in the family to attend college. Participants told their life stories in extended, unstructured interviews, producing their own narrated life. Interpretation of this interview data was an iterative, abductive process that explored the life stories through structural descriptions of the narratives, process structures of the life course, and thematic horizons that emerged from the life stories as told. Three thematic horizons (expectations/imagining a different future, suffering, and belonging) formed the foundation for the exploration of patterns of meaning that concluded that certain consistent elements were essential to participants' exercise of biographicity. These elements led to a configuration that allows scholars and practitioners to understand biographicity as a complex, organic process that cannot be reduced to simple characteristics or a linear set of variables. The study concluded that learning and biographicity are inseparably linked, forming an enactive ecology of learning in which individuals engage in processes that allow them to interact with their environment across the learning domains of cognition, emotion, and social interaction as well as participatory sensemaking and autonomy/heteronomy. In addition, experiences of recognition are essential to the exercise of biographicity. Biographicity was found to be a continual process of learning from one's life experiences and enacting a desired future as a form of lifelong learning. Finally, these particular participants provided insights that contribute to recommendations for theory, research, and practice that reflect their own experiences of biographicity.

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