The Young and the Digital

Before its release, I’d heard about this book from someplace, I’m not sure where – but I went to Amazon and ordered an advanced copy. It took me a while to read it – not because the book is hard to read, but a) because I’m a slow reader and b) because I was reading so much for school.  It turned out, however, that this book would play a decent size role in my major theory paper for my Cognitive Science course.  The book is:

Watkins, S. C. (2009). The Young & The Digital: What the Migration to Social-Network Sites, Games, and Anytime, Anywhere Media Means for Our Future. Boston, MA: Beacon Press. 

Personally, I think Watkins hits this one right one the head.  The book  has an easy to read tone and, although steeped in academic research, isn’t written in a way that would alienate someone.  This book has so much great information in it, and I encourage you to read all of it (and you can buy it from Amazon here); the following are passages I felt inclined to highlight or otherwise note while reading.


  • “it was vividly clear that digital is more than the tools and technology they use – it is, quite frankly, a way of life” (p. xiv).
  • “Oddly enough, the way they use new media technologies creates both fascinating expressions of community and disheartening instances of what we call digital gating – the maintenance of social and geographic boundaries” (p. xx).

DIGITAL MIGRATION: Young People’s Historic Move to the Online World

  • “Despite all of this, the young people who grew up in technology-rich homes were no different than the generations of youth who preceded them. Like most teens since post-World Work II America, the so-called “digital-natives” eagerly embraced opportunities to break away from their parents and establish their own cultural milieus, independence, and identities.  It just so happened that for this and successive generations, digital technologies allowed them to branch out in some hyper-efficient and extraordinarily creative ways” (p. 6).
  • “Teens, many researchers discovered, led the transition to digital” (p. 8).
  • “Between 2005 and 2006 the adoption of broadband took off just as many of the older teens and young twenty-something that we talked to hit the adolescent years” (p. 8).
  • “‘TV is controlled by adults,’ [Don] Tapscott writes.  “In contrast, children control much of their world on the Net” (p. 13).
  • “Ninety-two percent of those [young people] we surveyed own a television set and 53 percent listed television among the top three communications technologies they use most often behind the Internet, 80 percent, and mobile phones, 75 percent” (p. 13).
  • “Today, the migration to digital begins at younger and younger ages” (p. 14).
  • “A 2003 study by Kaiser Family Foundation researchers Victoria Rideout, Elizabeth Vandewater, and Ellen Wartella identifies some interesting trends regarding the media behaviors of children, from infants to six-year-olds.  First of all, they report that at younger and younger ages kids are asserting a growing degree of control over the media they use….Seventy percent of kids ages four to six have used a computer. About one in four in this age group use a computer every day” (p. 15).

SOCIAL MEDIA 101 – What Schools Are Learning About Themselves and Young Technology Users

  • “The primary aim of the Delete Online Predators Act, or DOPA, was to require any school or library that received federal E-rate discounts to block access to any Web site that ‘is offered by a commercial entity; permits registered users to create an on-line profile that includes detailed personal information; permits registered users to create an on-line journal and share such a journal with other users; elicits highly-personalized information from users; and enables communication among users” (p. 20).
  • “The cosponsors of DOPA were not only legislating against technological changes, they were also legislating against social change” (p. 21-2).
  • “In a [MacArthur Foundation] white paper titled ‘Living and Learning with New Media: Summary of Findings from the Digital Youth Project,’ the collaborators write….’Contrary to adult perceptions, while hanging out online, youth are picking up basic social and technical skills they need to fully participate in contemporary society.’ Rather than deny teenagers access to social media, educators and policy makers are advised in the report to learn more about how new technologies engage and empower young learners” (p. 24).
  • “For now, fears about online predators, naïve computer users, misuse of the Internet for personal rather than educational purposes, and quite frankly, a lack of information drives the decision to block sites like MySpace and Facebook on school grounds” (p. 27).
  • “Ms. Roberts is part of a growing chorus of educators who believe that rather than battle with kids over the technology that they embrace, schools need to engage them in more productive ways. ‘Just like we teach them how to read and write, we need to teach them how to use MySpace and other digital tools more responsibly,’ she said.  In very clear-spoken terms, the veteran principal told me, ‘If we leave our kids to deal with these issues on their own, then we are setting them up for failure” (p. 29).

THE VERY WELL CONNECTED: Friending, Bonding, and Community in the Digital Age

  • “Today, the ability to be connected to others through anytime, anywhere technology expands our sense of place, what it means to be social, and also reshapes how we experience community” (p. 47).
  • the “interest is not the technology per se, but rather the people and the relationships technology provides access to” (p. 49).
  • “Are notions of community and friendship changing in the digital age” (p. 49)?
  • “Among tweens and teens, social and mobile media embody what Ray Oldenburg calls a ‘third place’” (p. 58).
  • “For all that is seemingly new about social-networked sites, they do not appear to be radically altering the personal bonds and connections that young people make” (p. 69).
  • “Out of sight does not mean out of mind in the digital age” (p. 71).
  • “it is not always necessarily what is being said or even the duration of the communication but rather that something is said at all that can reflect a sense of connection and affection between people” (p. 72).

DIGITAL GATES: How Race and Class Distinctions Are Shaping the Digital World

  • “In his 2008 book, The Way We’ll Be: The Zogby Report on the Transformation of the American Dream, pollster John Zogby writes that the generation he calls the ‘First Globals,’ Americans between the ages of eighteen and twenty-nine, are ‘the most outward-looking…generation in American history’” (p. 98).

WE PLAY: The Allure of Social Games, Synthetic Worlds, and Second Lives

  • “Sit and talk with young people today about media and communication technology and a fascination generational ethos comes into clear view: the idea that they are not simply consumers of media but also creators and participants in media” (p. 106).
  • “…games as both a social lubricant and a social glue.  The former refers to how games can make it easier to strike up conversations with new acquaintances, while the latter is a reference to how games give established friends a fun way to grow closer to each other” (p. 112).
  • “The rules of making digital identities very significantly across different platforms.  Maintaining a digital self in Facebook, for instance, is very different than maintaining a digital self in WoW.  Whereas users of Facebook engage in identity management and self-representation, users of synthetic worlds engage in identity play and self-experimentation.  In most Facebook networks there is an expectation that the person you present closely approximates the person you are in the physical world.  Identity making in that platform is about managing and presenting a self that off-line friends and acquaintances know and see.  By contrast, there is little to no expectation that the person you present in a role-playing game will resemble the person you are in the physical world.  For that reasons building an avatar for the virtual world is much more explicitly playful and experimental – it is a license to build what some refer to as an alternative, imagines, or second self” (p 118-9).
  • “According to Yee and Bailenson, the self-representations chosen by synthetic-world users has a decisive influence on how they behave in the virtual world” (p. 120).

HOOKED: Rethinking the Internet Addiction Debate

  • “Brain research may one day show that the enhanced but computer-enabled sensation of power, influence, status, and control experienced in virtual environments can trigger chemical reactions in the brain reward pathways that make massively multiplayer online worlds alluring, and in the case of some, simply irresistible” (p. 139).

NOW: Fast Entertainment and Multitasking in an Always-On World

  • “A 2007 Wired magazine cover story titled ‘Snack Culture’ celebrates the rise of what is called bite-size entertainment and the emergent world of one-minute media” (p. 157)
  • “We have evolved from a culture of instant gratification to one of constant gratification” (p. 160).
  • “Young people are media rich.  They own music players, computers, mobile phones, TVs, and game consoles.  Young people’s media environment is like a kid who wakes up one day and finds himself in a candy store.  Surrounded by so many tasty options, what does he do?  Naturally, he devours as much of it as he can, any way that he can.  And that is essentially what we are seeing young people do with media.  Immersed in a world of media, they use as much of it as they can, any way that they can” (p. 161).
  • “even as humans continue managing multiple screens, media, and tasks simultaneously, cutting-edge brain research is beginning to confirm what some say is obvious: doing several things at once actually reduces task efficiency and proficiency.  There is growing evidence that multitasking many not only slow down the completion of tasks but may also impair our performance” (p. 165).

MAY I HAVE YOUR ATTENTION? The Consequence of Anytime, Anywhere Technology

  • “There are two kinds of technologies in todays classrooms: technologies that pull students away form the classroom, and technologies that pull students into the classroom” (p. 180).
  • “To suggest that technology in the classroom is only a distraction would be both unfair and untrue” (p. 180).
  • “Maybe students are surfing the Web in class because they are not being sufficiently engaged in class” (p. 186).
  • “Technology in the end is never the problem or the solution.  Humans are” (p. 186).
  • “In an environment where fast entertainment is always accessible, the boundaries between traditional leisure spaces (think home or the cinema) and nonleisure places (think work or school) are erased.  In today’s technology-rich world, any place can be a leisure space – a place to download a video, watch a movie clip, listen to you favorite pop single, or take a quick peek at a friends personal profile” (p. 190).

A MESSAGE FROM BARACK: What the Young and the Digital Means for Our Political Future

  • “From the beginning Team Obama understood that digital was not merely a tool to target young citizens but rather a medium to talk with them, open up to them, and interact with them” (p. 198).
  • “Future presidential campaigns may not be able to control the citizen-led conversations that happen on the social Web, but one thing is certain: they must participate in them” (p. 202).
  • “Change is especially evident in the ways that the young and the digital use social and mobile media to write they own unique American story about life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” (p. 208).

THE MAKING OF THIS BOOK: Research, Methods, and Acknowledgement.
Anyone doing research should read this section, especially pages 211 to 214.

  • “According to the Pew Internet & American Life Project, 2006 was the tipping point for high-speed Internet connection, turning what Pew, two years earlier, called the ‘broadband elite’ into the broadband masses” (p. 210).
  • “Whereas quantitative methods help researchers identify trends, frequencies, and patterns, qualitative methods provide depth, detail, and color.  Quantitative data tells you, for example, that teens spend an average of three hours a day online.  Qualitative data provides rich detail on the kinds of experiences generated during those three hours” (p. 213).
  • “One of our first tasks was to write a literature review of the scholarly research on social-network sites” (p. 213)

I would LOVE to see this!


Filed under Book Notes

2 Responses to The Young and the Digital

  1. Pingback: Tweets that mention The Young and the Digital « My pursuit of….um….what's that word again? --

  2. Pingback: uberVU - social comments

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>