Digital media and online communication have become a pervasive part of the everyday lives of youth in the United States. Social network sites, online games, video-sharing sites, and gadgets such as iPods and mobile phones are now well-established fixtures of youth culture; it can be hard to believe that just a decade ago these technologies were barely present in the lives of U.S. children and teens. Today’s youth may be engaging in negotiations over developing knowledge and identity, coming of age, and struggling for autonomy as did their predecessors, but they are doing this while the contexts for communication, friendship, play, and self- expression are being reconfigured through their engagement with new media. We are wary of the claims that there is a digital generation that overthrows culture and knowledge as we know it and that its members’ practices are radically different from older generations’ new media engage- ments. At the same time, we also believe that current youth adoption of digital media production and “social media”1 is happening in a unique historical moment, tied to longer-term and systemic changes in sociability and culture. While the pace of technological change may seem dizzying, the underlying practices of sociability, learning, play, and self-expression are undergoing a slower evolution, growing out of resilient social structural conditions and cultural categories that youth inhabit in diverse ways in their everyday lives. The goal of this book is to document a point in this evolutionary process by looking carefully at how both the commonalities and diversity in youth new media practice are part of a broader social and cultural ecology.
(with contributions from Judd Antin, Megan Finn, Arthur Law, Annie Manion, Sarai Mitnick and Dan Schlossberg and Sarita Yardi)
Book available through MIT Press.