"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.
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.
I guess we all know, more or less, what a “story” is. But what do we mean, exactly, by “field”? Dictionary.com 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”.
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.
Why on earth would kids that play Grand Theft Auto, Fifa Soccer, and Counter Strike be at all interested in Pacman? The 1980s arcade game is pretty simple, does not involve serious acts of violence, and does not feature any scantily clad women. It features no humans for that matter. And the story line – chomping on pellets and the occasional fruit while running away from ghosts – does not necessarily resonate with a high school boy’s grandiose dreams of becoming a professional athlete or skilled marksman.
I had just finished giving a talk about youth culture to a room full of professionals who worked in the retail industry when a woman raised her hand to tell me a story. It was homecoming season and her daughter Mary was going to go to homecoming for the first time. What fascinated this mother was that her daughter's approach to shopping was completely different than her own.
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.
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.