Resilent Adaptors on the Mobile Divide Despite Barriers leading America Out of the Digital Dark Ages
The McArthur Foundation profiles one outstanding youth, in a conference. There are
many digital videos or youth protraits on the Edutopia site so you can
get an idea of the wide variance of their uses of the media.
When I do keynotes, I bring along one or two of these stories to share.
With young relatives of my own on Facebook, with a wide range of use of
various media, I know that the youth need to speak for themselves and
we need to understand them? Those who are not voices are a part of the
problem because of barriers( to be explained below)
DML 2010: S. Craig Watkins on Black and Latino youth remaking the
S. Craig Watkins
The opening keynote by S. Craig Watkins, author of “The Young and the
Digital,” on how black and Latino youth are remaking the participation
gap, and subsequent conversations related to the conference theme of
“Diversifying Participation,” got us thinking more about a
participation gap versus an access gap.
Watkins notes that black and Latino youth spend more time online than
white youth, and they more often access the web via mobile phones than
desktops. He calls them “resilient adopters,” because they need to
adapt and find ways to use media when equipment is broken or access is
limited. Although they are accessing digital media as or more
frequently than white youth, the concern shifts now to one of
participation—are there differences in how different groups of young
people participate and, if so, what are the ramifications of these
differences? Mobile affords youth much more privacy after all—and again
raises the question: What is the role for adults and mentors? Spotlight
will feature a more in-depth look at Watkins’s work next week, in
particular its link to hip hop culture.
For more about Watkins’ talk, read the write-ups by Liz Losh and Case
Following the chair’s introduction by Dr. Henry Jenkins, the opening
keynote talk was delivered by S. Craig Watkins. Highly regarded for his
research about race, youth and digital media usage and his books, The
Young and the Digital and Hip Hop Matters. He was invited to join the
MacArthur Foundation Series on Youth, Digital Media and Learning.
With this in mind and with no experience in this area I was looking
forward to hearing the perspective from which he considers this space.
Below is provided a few key insights I took out of his keynote talk:
SCW Insight: The conversation around youth use of digital media and the
digital divide as a racial ravine has changed. Black and latino youth
are using technology and the degree of engagement has evolved
considerably since 1998 ?
Here he poses the audience to reflect on what this conference might
have looked like in 1998, over ten years ago in terms of race and usage?
SCW Insight: If we ask them [youth] if they use and access – it assumes
they are not connected for a certain period of the day? They are in
fact using social media ‘more’ than heir white counterparts.
He presents to the audience a number of emergent patterns about black
and latino youth usage, which challenged historical views about black
and latino participation in the digital media space:
Usage is mobile: Mobile phones are merging as the preferred platform.
92% own a mobile phone …
Usage is peer and Interest driven: They are ‘Living and learning’ with
new media … engaging their peers … peer interaction … peer informed
spaces that drive their usage and interest driven genres (e.g., hip
Use digital media is the new town square: ‘Back in the day’ .. hip hop
… youth always writing stories, carrying pens and papers, documenting
their stories about their life in poems and hip hop … today, the
digital landscape is the new town square about hip hop … they go online
to engage with their community, and engage in a ‘stunning’ critique
about the world around them ….
Use digital media as a space of opportunity: Messaging & hanging around
in digital media is NOT just wasting time, but they are creating
gateways for them to create opportunities and engage with what they are
love and passionate about … e.g., a young girl who used hip hop to
connect with hip hop artists, but also to connect with her friends and
record/tweet about her own hip hop …
He goes on to discuss the affinity between social media and hip hop
(e.g., mobility, DIY, peer-based learning, participatory, view of them
in their world) and summarises some key tenants of what they have
learnt so far about black and latino youth in the digital media space:
Black youth capital is about – ‘keepin it real in the digital age’
Black cultural capital wherein “soft skills” and code switching
in/between digital and real world is important. Soft skills he defines
as the ways people interact with others, esp. how they talk … black and
latino youth profiles in digital space, how they present themselves,
their linguistic practices, these styles of behaviour suit their peers,
but not perhaps the wider/formal view of the world (e.g., getting a
Creating and critiquing expression and peer-group connection: Digital
media is the space where they grapple with their own fears and their
own concerns and peer-group connection. He gives an example of New
Orleans and Katrina and how a young boys digital media practices
changed before (i.e., didn’t use/value Myspace) and after Katrina
(e.g., place to express and reconnect with his peers, post evacuation.
Creating and critiquing the politics of race and place … public
memorials, grieving and engagement with social issues… are engaging
with differing skills and life experiences and these life experiences
are shaping their interaction and participation in the digital world.
Creating and critiquing in any place through digital space …
Black/Latino … more likely than white via handheld … more reliable than
home access and in these places they feel ‘policed’, not so with mobile
technologies … mobile becomes an empowered space in any place …
In summary, S. Craig Watkins poses some interesting insights into not
just the usage of black and latino youth with digital media, disposing
the historical view of the 1990’s of the synergy between race and
digital divide .. but also sharing his learning on black and latino
youth in the digital space … their experiences, values and in his words
‘how they are in this world’ (S. Craig Watkins, DML-2010).
From this delivery I felt an additional area worth exploring:
In addition to how black and latino youth use, are, see, interact and
participate in the digital media space, how does digital media make
black and latino youth feel as part of this experience? This question
comes from an exploratory study with MedisSnackers in the UK that I was
fortunate to be part of entitled: The Web Makes Me Feel!
The Digital Generation Projec
t. Edutopia’s in-depth coverage of students from around the country reveals how young people are using new media to learn, communicate, and socialize in new and exciting ways.
There is an achievement gap.All of today’s students do not fit the
stereotype of the kid glued to the computer or the television 20 hours
a day. A typical classroom is much more diverse, with students coming
from a range of backgrounds. Many do not have computers at home, some
have disabilities, and some are simply not interested in computer games.
The Lucas Foundation tells ius to sync up with the new generation of
connected learners. The Digital
Generation Project presents video portraits of the lives of young
students from around the country who are using digital media to learn,
communicate, and socialize in new and exciting
The Digital Generation
FCC Chairman shared this data with us.He acknowledges the Mobile Divide
Barriers to Use
Affordability: 36 percent of non-adopters, or 28 million adults, said
they do not have home broadband because the monthly fee is too
expensive (15 percent), they cannot afford a computer, the installation
fee is too high (10 percent), or they do not want to enter into a
long-term service contract (9 percent). According to survey
respondents, their average monthly broadband bill is $41.
Digital Literacy: 22 percent of non-adopters, or 17 million adults,
indicated that they do not have home broadband because they lack the
digital skills (12 percent) or they are concerned about potential
hazards of online life, such as exposure to inappropriate content or
security of personal information (10 percent).
Relevance: 19 percent of non-adopters, or 15 million adults, said they
do not have broadband because they say that the Internet is a waste of
time, there is no online content of interest to them or, for dial-up
users, they are content with their current service.
Digital Hopefuls, who make up 22 percent of non-adopters, like the idea
of being online but lack the resources for access.
Few have a computer and, among those who use one, few feel comfortable
with the technology. Some 44 percent cite affordability as a barrier to
adoption and they are also more likely than average to say digital
literacy are a barrier. This group is heavily Hispanic and has a high
share of African-Americans.
Julius Genachowski wants to be the Federal Communications Commission
chairman who brings cheap and fast broadband to a technologically
backward nation — the United States.
Compared to countries like South Korea or Finland the United States has
fallen behind in the broadband rankings like a stock car with a blown
engine. Citizens pay too much for service that’s too slow, or don’t
have access to high speed internet at all.