Children, Youth and Digital Culture
Professor: Margot Susca, Ph.D.
Course Hashtag: #COMM515
Course Meeting Time and Location: Wednesdays, 8:55 a.m. to 11:35 a.m., MCK T01
Office: MCK 311
Tuesdays: Noon to 3 p.m.
Thursdays: 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.
“Television is a stable companion after school hours, music is a mood creator, and electronic games may be catalysts for meeting friends. In very concrete terms, the media help structure time and space for their users, just as their various genres, formats, and social uses serve as symbolic means of meaning making and interpretation for the young.” –Kirsten Drotner
The growth of digital media has transformed how we communicate and engage, both with each other and with the larger society. Real-time, 24/7 connectivity to friends, family, and acquaintances has become a social norm. The so-called “digital generation” is at the center of this transformation as corporations, meanwhile, work to tap a teenage market worth more than $150 billion annually. But what--if any--are the cognitive, behavioral, social and emotional effects of this connectivity and technology that is so prevalent in children’s and adolescents’ lives?
This course will explore the role that children and adolescents play in today’s digital media culture--as active participants, content creators, and consumers. Further, the course will map the ways youth audiences engage media and are affected by it. We will examine the confluence of technological, social, political, and economic forces that have shaped, and continue to shape the digital content and services designed for young people. We will draw from a growing body of research to learn how youth are embracing social media, mobile phones, gaming, and other digital media, and integrating them into their personal and social lives. We will focus attention on the important role that new media play in the socialization of youth, exploring how the features of interactive technology tap into key developmental needs such as identity exploration, self-expression, peer relationships, and independence. We will assess the commercial nature of digital media, with particular attention to the strategies and techniques employed by companies to target and engage children and teens. We will explore the role of the Internet as a forum for democratic discourse, political participation, and civic engagement.
Finally, we will cover some of the major controversies--over issues such as violent videogames, sexual and indecent content, Internet safety, “cyberporn,” commercialization and targeted marketing, and online privacy--that have generated broad public debate and prompted advocacy groups and policy makers to action. Three credits.
By the end of the semester, students should have a solid understanding of the following:
- the major forces that have influenced the emergence and growth of today’s digital media culture;
- the key players, institutions, and stakeholders involved in this emerging media culture – including companies, nonprofit organizations, think tanks, and government agencies;
- the theories and methods by which scholars study youth involvement with digital media;
- an overview of what researchers have learned about the impact of digital culture on young peoples’ social relationships, personal identities, and daily behavior patterns;
- the ways in which digital media are affecting representation, identity, and participation;
- the major policy issues and public debates generated by digital media in the lives of youth;
Textbook and Required Readings:
- Montgomery, K. C. (2007). Generation digital: politics, commerce, and childhood in the age of the internet. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press. ISBN:0262512564
- Other required readings will be posted chronologically to the “Course Library” tab of our Blackboard site.
TWITTER: The instructor suggests the use of Twitter as a means of finding major U.S. and global news and articles related to course topics. Frequently, the instructor will share or re-tweet relevant articles and links there related to the issues covered in class using #COMM515. Students may use this hashtag to communicate with each other and the professor outside of class.
BLACKBOARD and STUDENT EMAIL: There is a Blackboard (Bb) site for COMM 515. The instructor will use Bb as a primary means of communicating with the class. Please ensure you check the class Bb site and your AU email each morning before class. You are responsible for ensuring that you receive the email I send to your AU account.
EMAIL: Please put COMM 515 in the subject line of all emails sent to me. I try to respond to all student emails within 12 hours, but I may not answer emails as quickly on weekends or after 6 p.m. Please plan accordingly.