It’s been over three years in the making, but we are at long last releasing the results of our Digital Youth Project. The goal of this work was to gain an understanding of youth new media practice in the U.S. by engaging in ethnographic research across a diverse range of youth populations, sites, and activities. A collaboration between 28 researchers and research collaborators, this was a large ethnographic project funded by the MacArthur Foundation as part of their Digital Media and Learning initiative. I was one of the PIs on the project together with Peter Lyman, Michael Carter, and Barrie Thorne.
Over the past few years, I’ve paid close attention to this project. I’ve met a few of the PI’s (sadly, never Peter Lyman), I’ve spent time with a number of the researchers, and I’ve always been impressed with (and more than a little jealous of) the work this team has accomplished. The project produced countless presentations, reports and articles, as well as a book series that I consider foundational. In my short graduate school career, I’ve looked at this project as a model of successful research. Much credit also goes to the MacArthur foundation for having the foresight and willingness to endeavor this project; it has had a profound impact on the field.
The New York times writes about the effort:
The study, part of a $50 million project on digital and media learning, used several teams of researchers to interview more than 800 young people and their parents and to observe teenagers online for more than 5,000 hours. Because of the adult sense that socializing on the Internet is a waste of time, the study said, teenagers reported many rules and restrictions on their electronic hanging out, but most found ways to work around such barriers that let them stay in touch with their friends steadily throughout the day.
Of course, the “findings” of this project are interesting (and serve an important role countering popular discourse around young people and technology), but I’m equally interested in the networks this work has created. The 28 researchers, PI’s, assistants, conferences, meetings, online chats, etc. have bridged the field and brought many to the table. Perhaps greater than any findings will be the legacy of research and connections it leaves behind. In the meantime, you can read the final report here.