Smarter People Through Interactive Digital Entertainment Resources

Smarter People through Interactive Digital Entertainment Resources

Participatory Learning in a Networked Society: Lessons from the Digital Youth Project

Mimi Ito

cultural anthropologist studying new media use, particularly among young people in Japan and the US.

Our focus has been to look for learning in the informal and non-institutionalized settings of kids’ everyday engagement with new media, in homes, afterschool, and other sites of socializing and play. Our goal has been to look at new media from a kids’ point of view, working to understand the motivations and interests they bring to new media when they engage on their own terms. And our motivating intuition, hypothesis even, has been that youth culture surrounding new media is a site of innovation that can help inform how we approach educational efforts in this space.

A bit of context:

- The first is the increasing accessibility of tools for digital production. For a majority of youth now in the US, tools for writing, creating and modifying digital photos and videos, and communicating on the Internet are part of their everyday life. The unique affordances of digital media - to make, remake, modify, mashup, and remix media content - these are taken for granted now. They are part of their everyday media ecology that they are immersed in. Basic tools for digital media creation come prepackaged with a personal computer now. Ten years ago, if I had stood here and said that the majority of teens in the US have made a personal home page, I would have been laughed out of the room. Today, in the era of MySpace, it is utterly unremarkable.

- The second big factor is that kids are creating and sharing their digital works in a context of public scrutiny. Not only do they have the ability to create new media works, but they are able to publish, share, and distribute them on the Internet, and have other like-minded folks view and comment on the work. The networks that young people have access to through the Internet have evolved tremendously in the past decade, in significant part due to the innovation and social energies of youth themselves.

What I’ve been interested in is the properties of learning that happens in these networked publics of digital media creation and sharing. When you have an ecology of culture and knowledge that supports peer-to-peer and many-to-many communication, how do kids exploit it for their own learning agendas?

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