In a piece that I just published in the International Journal of Media and Learning I argue that many of the challenges related to technology, equity, and diversity remain viable even though black and Latino youth are more connected to networked media than ever before. Our current research projects are digging deep to better understand the perils and possibilities that shape young people’s digital lives, including those who find themselves in the social, economic, and educational margins. Here are a few excerpts from the article:
From Digital divides to particpation gaps: ”In years past the great fear was that the digital divide would leave black and Latino youth disconnected from the social, educational, and civic opportunities the Internet affords. However, some of the most urgent questions today are less about access and more about the context and quality of engagement. Specifically, how do race, class, gender, and geography influence the digital media practices of young people? Even as a growing diversity of young people adopts digital media technologies, not all digital media ecologies are equal… Investigations of the digital lives of black and Latino youth must focus less on the access gap and more on the “participation gap.” Whereas the former defines the issues of technology and social inequality largely as a matter of access to computers and the Internet, the latter considers the different skills, competencies, knowledge, practices, and forms of capital that different populations bring to their engagement with networked media.”
The influence of hip hop in digital media culture: “The origins of hip-hop bear a striking resemblance to the participatory norms and practices of early 21stcentury digital media culture. Some of the most iconic creative practices associated with early hip-hop—aerosol art (graffiti) and turntablism—reflect a serious social and creative investment in technology for the expression of identity and community. Early hip how was interest based, peer driven, and propelled by a rich informal learning ecology…[T]he technological aspirations of black and Latino youth are long-standing. Nowhere is this more evident than in the context of hip-hop culture… Hip-hop culture is the dominant medium through which black and Latino teens construct their digital identities, master unique online linguistic practices, assemble social ties, and navigate their interest in pop music, videos, fashion, sports, and civic life.”
Black males and digital media. “The digital media identities, performances, and self-creation practices of young black men–how they navigate the popular culture landscape to gain recognition and prestige–is based largely on the desire to gain respect from their male peers. This bid for respectability is visible across the many platforms that converge in the use of sites like MySpace and Facebook, including music, video, photos, animation, wall posts, and status updates…The digital media practices and identities of young black men reflect the extent to which they covet the fantasies of fame, wealth, and status that color the most popular expressions of black masculinity in the production of corporate hip-hop. In this context content creation and authorship with digital media develop culturally specific notions of authenticity, social currency, and cultural capital within a distinct peer community.”
Creating and critiquing with digital media. “In addition to observing them creating with digital media, my research has also observed black and Latino youth critiquing with digital media…These are not necessarily explicitly organized acts of civic engagement but rather casual reflections, content, and modes of expression that broaden the scope of youth digital media practices. Whereas friendship-driven genres reflect how digital media are used to negotiate the inward-looking world of peer cultures, the civic-oriented genres illuminate some of the distinct ways in which digital media are used to look outward and critically at the world… By bringing distinct cultural sensibilities, social critiques, and lived experiences to their engagement with digital media, black and Latino youth are not only remaking the digital divide; they are also expanding the genres of participation that marks young people’s engagement with digital media.”
The mobile phone. ”For Latino and African American youth the mobile phone has become an alternative gateway to the kinds of digital media activities they prefer—social networking, status updates, sharing photos, and consuming media like games, music, and video. But is this path to the online world limited? While mobile phones can be a tool for creativity, learning, and civic engagement, credible concerns have been raised that teens who are restricted to mobile phones for home internet use may also be restricted to media ecologies and social networks that rarely, if ever, afford access to these kinds of experiences…The issue is not whether rich or meaningful mobile learning ecologies will develop…they already exist. Rather, the real question is, will these mobile leaning ecologies be distributed in ways that close or maintain America’s learning divide?”
Digital Media, Literacy and the Achievement Gap. ”Even as black and Latino youth have built a robust informal media ecology, a debate has emerged: To what extent does their participation in digital media culture enhance learning outcomes such as motivation, grit, and academic success while also encouraging the development of hybrid learner identities such as writers, designers, journalists, scientists, researchers, and teachers? And what evidence exists that Latino and African-American engagement with media technology produces behaviors and learning outcomes that might impact the academic achievement gap?… Even as digital and mobile media platforms are available in a greater diversity of households, the different cultural environments in which young people use technology leads to different intensities of engagement and, ultimately, to different learning outcomes.”
You can read Digital Divides: Navigating the Digital Edge, here.