Zwischenbilanz des Digital Youth project (Berkeley)

“‘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.” Beteiligt an diesem Projekt sind die Univ. of Southern California sowie die UC Berkeley. Die Untersuchung setzt zwei Schwerpunkte: Mobile Kommunikation und Soziale Netzwerke.

Einige Auszüge aus dem Zwischenbericht:

Digital Communication

We have found that IM is a constant silent communiqué among kids about their feelings about the world, a bit like a Greek chorus always commenting in the background while kids are living in the world. … Messaging is about not feeling alone, and while “alone” at home kids can be messaging to dozens of friends. Today we are looking at ‘media ecologies’ in order to incorporate mundane technologies like cell phones, ipods, video and television programs in our framing of lifestyles. Digital communication has tacit politics, and we’re observing how kids formulate their ideas of status, reputation and perhaps power.


How does the process of creating and sharing their own amateur media online change young people’s sense of identity and agency? (See Becky Herr) And the creation of new ideas leads to a developing sense of property. At the start, among teens we observe kids defining and defending their status as creators in their peer groups; later we see teens thinking about careers, and making a living online. …

Learning, then, is not only about mastery of a body of knowledge, as in school; informal learning is also the mastery of skills in using digital tools in the online civil society.

  • We see kids employing visual literacy, an important topic in educational reform in England and elsewhere; here the focus is on You Tube (Sonja Baumer).
  • We observe kids developing a sense of information and knowledge; Laura Robinson is beginning a study of kids’ use, interpretation and, in some instances, editing of Wikipedia stories.
  • Kids often treat social status as a kind of economy, thus we often hear angry conversations negotiating ownership of new ideas. This is usually a gift economy where kids compete for status, although there is a money economy using Pay Pal to buy capital for Second Life.


How do kids describe their experience playing videogames? Adults tend to see antisocial imagery in many videogames, yet the kids we interviewed describe videogames as a form of sport, like football or basketball. That is, kids know that games are imaginary, not real activities, yet there is a kind of arousal to competition through violent imagery. … kids think of playing games as a skilled performance that earns social status.

We are also watching online worlds that operate as civil societies, such as Final Fantasy XI or Neopets where players may join sub-communities within the games and negotiate complex social, political and economic structures in their game worlds. Kids also know how to make up games, that is, the capacity to collaborate to define rules and to play, earning a reputation as a gamer. Most generally, we recognize that there is an element of play in most online activities, in that kids are playing roles, experimenting with identity and membership.