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

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Photo Credits: Ritchie Ly and Geert Allegaert.

The Social Dynamics of Media Production in an After-School Setting

Project staff: Judd Antin, Christo Sims, Dan Perkel

As digital tools that facilitate creativity become more common and accessible for kids, they are increasingly being integrated into everyday social practices. Digital media creation tools such as Apple’s GarageBand and LiveType software as well as online social engagement tools such as MySpace lower the barriers to new types of self-expression and enable kids to appropriate digital technologies in natural ways. Furthermore, easy access to these technologies means they are no longer mere novelties, and the rich interactions they enable are becoming a part of kids’ everyday experience. As they do so, the lines between what happens on the computer and what happens in physical space are blurred.

This project investigated media production classes at a San Francisco technology center for students in low-income neighborhoods. We look at how the students negotiate and appropriate the structured and unstructured aspects of the program in order to learn new technical skills, socialize with new groups of friends, and take advantage of the unique access to both technical and social resources.

Research Goals

  1. To examine how notions of private/personal vs. public, ownership and sharing, authority and resistance, status and power, and creative collaboration are (or are not) influenced by the duality of individual interaction with digital creative tools in a shared space.
  2. To highlight the ways in which augmented interactions share commonalities with existing social practices.
  3. To move towards understandings of kids' augmented interactions in a shared spaces that may be useful heuristics for both analyzing and designing technologies to support creativity and informal learning
  4. To document kids’ perspectives about digital technology, its role in their daily lives outside of school, and its role in their experiences with each other.
  5. To create a rich ethnographic profile of our site.


  • Participant Observation - We attended classes with the participants over the course of three different sessions.
  • Interviews – We interviewed the teachers of the classes as well as the head of the center.