Affinity Online: How Connection and Shared Interest Fuel Learning
Mizuko Ito, Director, Connected Learning Lab, UC Irvine
Professor and Foundation Chair, Digital Media and Learning, UC Irvine
Girls writing boyband fanfic on Wattpad, level designers for Little Big Planet, community organizers for professional wrestling fantasy leagues, screen casters for StarCraft, and knitters sharing Harry Potter inspired creations on Ravelry.com—these are all examples of young people finding their people and their thing through online affinity networks. The case studies in the Leveling Up project of the Connected Learning Research Network investigate what features of online affinity networks support productive and connected learning. The learning that young people are pursuing in these informal and interest-driven settings are part of a broader set of trends towards more demand-driven, social, and openly networked learning. The focus on shared interests supports strong bonds and a sense of belonging, but can also be exclusionary to outsiders and newbies. These dynamics exemplify how peer learning through niche communities exemplify intertwined processes of inclusion and exclusion.
Mizuko Ito is a cultural anthropologist of technology use, examining children and youth’s changing relationships to media and communications. She is the director of the Connected Learning Lab, Professor in Residence and John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation Chair in Digital Media and Learning at the University of California, Irvine, with appointments in the Department of Anthropology, the Department of Informatics, and the School of Education.
Her work centers on how to tap student interests and digital media to fuel learning that is engaging, relevant, and socially connected. In Connected Learning: An Agenda for Research and Design Ito and her colleagues in the Connected Learning Research Network map out how education can embrace today’s technology to make meaningful learning available to all young people. She is also co-founder of Connected Camps, a benefit corporation that provides online creative learning in Minecraft for kids in all walks of life.
Her work on educational software appears in Engineering Play: A Cultural History of Children’s Software. In Japan, her research has focused on mobile technologies and fandom, and she co-edited, Personal, Portable, Pedestrian: Mobile Phones in Japanese Life and Fandom Unbound: Otaku Culture in a Connected World. Her research on youth digital media engagement in the U.S. appears in her co-authored books Hanging Out, Messing Around, and Geeking Out: Youth Living and Learning with New Media, Participatory Culture in a Networked Era, and Affinity Online.
In addition to the MacArthur Foundation, she has been awarded grants by the National Science Foundation, the Spencer Foundation, the Mellon Foundation, the Institute for Museum and Library Services, Google, Intel Research, Microsoft Research, the Abe Fellowship Program, and the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science, and is the recipient of the Jan Hawkins Award for Early Career Contributions to Humanistic Research and Scholarship in Learning Technologies from the American Educational Research Association. Her web site is at http://www.itofisher.com/mito.
Date: January 31, 2019
Location: GSE&IS Building, Room 111
Reception to follow
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