Kids' Informal Learning with Digital Media

About Digital Youth

"Kids' Informal Learning with Digital Media: An Ethnographic Investigation of Innovative Knowledge Cultures" is a three-year collaborative project funded by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. Carried out by researchers at the University of Southern California and University of California, Berkeley, the digital youth project explores how kids use digital media in their everyday lives. Read more

Creative Commons License

The work on this site is licensed under a CC-BY-NC. If you share or re-use any work found on the site, please credit the original author and the Digital Youth Project and link back to the Digital Youth Project.

Photo Credits: Ritchie Ly and Geert Allegaert.

relationship performance in networked publics

Crushes, flirting, and dating are a key aspect of teens' lives. While these nascent relationships often end almost as quickly as they begin, they play a significant role in how teens see themselves and others. Because MySpace is a hangout space for teenagers, aspects of their flirtation with and dismissal of potential partners takes place on the site. Given the public nature of these expressions, we can get a glimpse into the trials and tribulations of teen love. Furthermore, we can examine how technology supports pre-existing practices while complicating other aspects of relationship management. Not all of what takes place is pretty - the language, norms, and attitudes of teens can be shocking to adults, but they are a very real component of teen communication. In this fieldnote, i document one example of how love and breakups appear online.

Today on YouTube: Notes from a non-causal observer

In my daily of observations of YouTube activities I noticed a rather strong presence of texts produced by so-called Main Stream Media (MSM), mainly TV. This feature seems to be quite prominent especially on ”the most viewed” page and contradicts some predictions that were made during the big YouTube ascend (i.e., Summer/ Fall 2006.). During that period both MSM journalists and some bloggers have suggested that YouTube would displace or even replace MSM. That was the time when CNN and BBC started to show user-generated videos during their regular news broadcasts.

"You have Another World to Create": Teens and Online Hangouts

As I read the New York Times this morning, an article about teenagers' use of public libraries as "hangout" spots caught my eye. In it experts bemoaned the growing lack of "third places," in other words, places which weren't home or school, where teens could engage in a time honored tradition of American adolescence, "hanging out." Indeed as we perceive that our streets grow more dangerous, as suburban family life increasingly takes place in atomized homes, and the amount of public spaces decline, public or quasi-public places where youth can socialize appear infrequently.

Radio Free Hogwarts: Stories from the Field

My introduction to the world of Harry Potter podcasts came this past July when I attended Lumos 2006 in Las Vegas. Throughout my first day at the conference, I noticed a growing group of attendees milling around the foyer of the conference hall with looks of desperation on their faces.

The First Annual Vloggies: Stories from the field

I found myself excitedly rushing to catch the First Annual Vloggie Award Ceremony held at the Swedish American Hall in the Castro district of San Francisco on November 4, 2006. After fighting through traffic and finally finding parking I found a seat in the already dark theater where the audience was assembled and ready for the ceremony to begin. A bank of cameras lined the back wall, and a giant screen adorned the front where the emcees for the evening—Irina Slutsky and Daniel McVicar—introduced the presenters of the awards.

Regent Park Television: Kids playing GTA

Tony Walsh’s wonderful blog Clickable Culture points us to the latest episode of Regent Park Television, which is simply unmissable for anybody interested in gamers, gaming communities, and videogames. Before you click the link, here’s some background info: according to Walsh, Regent Park is ‘one of Toronto’s most troubled inner-city neighborhoods’. Not too long ago, some of the residents started an interesting project called Regent Park Television, a video report of things happening in the neighborhood that are regularly uploaded on YouTube.

Moral panics, bad journalism, videogames, and Italian melodrama

I guess we all know, more or less, what a “story” is. But what do we mean, exactly, by “field”? provides more than 40 definitions for this term. In sports, for example, “field” is “the area in which field events are held, the playing field”. A field is also defined as “a sphere of activity, interest, especially within a particular business of profession”. In military jargon, a field is a synonymous for “battleground”. In ethnographic studies, “to be in the field” means “being in contact with a prime source of basic data”.

This is Not lonelygirl15: Stories from the field

In many ways, Lynn Milvert's use of digital media resembles that of an stereotypical 15 year old girl growing up in suburban America. She spends hours each day in her music-filled room, multitasking between social networking sites, multiple instant messaging applications, and maybe even a little homework. But Lynn is not a suburban girl--Lynn lives in the upper foothills of California’s Sierra-Nevada mountain range where she has been home schooled since 6th grade, largely with a group of other kids from her church.

MacArthur Foundation Announcement on Digital Media and Learning

Yesterday in New York the MacArthur Foundation announced that they will be committing $50 million over the next five years to the field of digital media and learning. Our Digital Youth project was one of MacArthur’s exploratory grants in this area together with Henry Jenkins' New Media Literacy project at MIT. It’s very exciting to see the foundation making this commitment to ongoing support of this area. In addition to a growing number of domestic research grants in this initiative, the foundation will begin funding international research and will roll out a related book series. The MacArthur web site on this new initiative is here and the blog is here. The webcast from today's event is here. Danah has a summary of the panel discussion here.

What We've Learned So Far

The Digital Youth project began in 2003 with three questions about informal learning and digital media.

  • How is digital communication – the mobile phone and the Internet – changing the scale, scope and the dynamics of kids’ social worlds?
  • What new learning skills and knowledge practices are developing from the use of digital media – ranging from seeking information to the creation of new expressions of ideas? How are digital authoring tools enabling kids to create new kinds of cultural products?
  • What do kids think that they learn from games, and how do these skills transfer to other learning places like schools – if they do? What do kids learn from participation in gamer communities and communication?
  • What have we learned so far, half way through our ethnographic research project to explore these questions?

    Digital communication has two dimensions in our research: the uses of instant messaging (IM) in kids’ lives; and social networks creating and sustaining online communities.