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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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.

Field Stories

Field Stories are short, descriptive summaries of interesting case studies and events that emerged over the three years of research. Different researchers on the project created these stories to communicate aspects our research to a broad audience.

  • Mimi Ito | Tuesday, November 20, 2007 - 20:31

    One important dimension of our research is to develop an understanding of the diversity in ways that different youth engage with digital media, and what some of the factors are that lie behind this diversity. While broad demographic indicators such as national context, socioeconomic status, gender, age, or race have been analyzed as sources of diversity in digital media adoption, we still have very limited understanding of the specific practices, social contexts, and cultural identifications that inflect digital media use in different ways.

  • Becky Herr | Tuesday, November 6, 2007 - 01:42

    Since the publication of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone nearly 10 years ago, fans of the series have adopted a variety of technologies for sharing writing, facilitating discussion, creating artwork and computer graphics, and producing audio and video. One such practice is podcasting, which became an important part of the fandom around August 2005.

  • Dilan Mahendran | Tuesday, October 23, 2007 - 01:55

    For youth in general listening to music is a significant practice, yet its immanent meaning is rarely explored. What brings music listening to the foreground in this case is my ethnographic study of amateur and novice Hip Hop music making. I came upon music listening as an active part of music making experiences while spending time at an after school music and technology program in the Mission district of San Francisco. The music program in the Mission introduces youth to Hip Hop music production.

  • Sonja Baumer | Tuesday, October 9, 2007 - 01:43

    My story is about “Claire”, a 19 year old college student. Claire comes from a rural area and works occasionally on her family’s farm where she manages a small dairy goat herd. A year ago I stumbled upon her YouTube video entitled “I am too sexy”. The video is a remix of the song “I am too sexy” by the British pop band “Right Said Fred” (1992) and a “grab” from “My Little Pony” DVD series. Claire works with relatively basic equipment, which includes a PC computer and Windows Movie Maker software and has received a minimal training in video production.

  • Matteo Bittanti | Monday, October 1, 2007 - 23:21

    He is sitting in front of a television screen. He is wearing t-shirt and jeans. Headset on, hands tightly clutched on a game controller. But there is something terribly wrong here. He looks enraged. He swears profusely. At one point, he gets up, starts jumping up and down. He is gesticulating in an unorthodox manner. Look at him: he just threw gamepad on the floor. He screams savagely. He kicks his chair. He punches the television.

    You have probably seen him before.

    He is the “angry gamer”.

  • Katynka Martinez | Thursday, September 13, 2007 - 19:49

    I spent one semester conducting participant observations with kids in a computer club at an urban high school in Los Angeles. All of the kids in the class are male and their racial/ethnic background reflects the demographics of the school. The club includes Armenian, Filipino, Latino, and African American students. The boys come in to the computer lab everyday during lunchtime and even during their 17-minute nutrition break. They play games on computers that they have networked to each other, view anime on their laptops, and sometimes actually eat their lunch too.

  • Heather Horst | Thursday, June 21, 2007 - 21:03

    In talking to families in Silicon Valley about their use of media and technology, I often hear stories about how different the experience of being a teenager is today.

  • Christo Sims | Thursday, May 31, 2007 - 16:35

    About an hour's drive east of Sacramento, the Great Central Valley of California meets the Sierra-Nevada mountain range. The valley's end loosely bounds the suburbs of the greater Sacramento metropolitan area. As roads and rivers climb into the mountains, towns become considerably smaller and more dispersed, trees shift from oaks to pines, the temperature quickly drops. Roughly 150 years ago, this area was one of the epicenters of the California Gold Rush. The historic use of hydraulic mining technology still marks some hills – ashen ruptures in otherwise pine-green panoramas.

  • Patricia G. Lange | Tuesday, May 22, 2007 - 16:24

    Clubhouse Productions (a pseudonym) is a youth-run, video production company. Ranging in age from 16-18, the mostly male members began forming friendships at school and later, at social events offered for home-schooled children and their families. Even though the boys had seen each other at social events many times, it was not until they began making movies together that they became a tight-knit group. The youth regularly make videos and ritualize aspects of their friendship around video-themed events, such as filming themselves at their annual New Year’s Eve party.

  • Dan Perkel | Wednesday, March 28, 2007 - 20:12

    Michael and James. Two teenage boys in the Bay Area, James from a poor area of San Francisco, Michael from a wealthier home in Oakland. Each uses the Interent and other digital technologies as a part of their social lives and their interest in art and technology. Like most of their friends, each has a MySpace profile, though their use of the site differs dramatically and can only be understood in light of their other hobbies. Their differing levels of access to social and technical resources is in line with what some call a “participation gap,” but as I describe in detail below, this might run the risk of, at best, an over-simplification of their digitally-enhanced creative interests, and at worst, a privileging of the value of one of the boy’s interests and activities over the other’s.