Kids online
A new research agenda for understanding
social networking forums

Dr. Sara M. Grimes
Faculty of Information
Un...
table of contents

introduction
p. 5

executive
summary

existing
research: usage
trends
p. 7

p. 3

kids online

p. 11

p...
executive summary

We are also concerned with online sites and

participation in and across these forums. To

younger ages...
executive summary

This gap in our knowledge is problematic

social networking in keeping with the issues

limits, rules, ...
introduction

online social networking as it spreads

“social networking sites” (SNS), or as we will

forums that have an ...
introduction

large-scale survey research. Younger age
groups are understudied and under-reported
even though sites target...
existing
research

usage
trends

We begin with a cursory mapping of the latest usage
rates and trends regarding social net...
the existing research: usage trends

relatively high. As Lenhart, Purcell, Smith and

define social networking in the same...
the existing research: usage trends

using a social networking site, with 46% iden-

likely to go online than older teens:...
the existing research: usage trends

omission in the literature that actively parti-

are more likely engaged in often exp...
key
gaps in
research
While participation in social networking forums has
increased steadily over the past several years, w...
key gaps in research

In this section we seek to illuminate the gaps

literacies to identity work, creative practices,

ar...
key gaps in research

50% of 6-to-9-year olds. And the breakdown

development (cognitively and socially) than

removed an ...
key gaps in research

it had become common for sites containing

access those communities” (p. 25). Indeed,

children are ...
key gaps in research

tendency to “focus on studying digital

Similarly, Livingstone & Helsper (2007) concur

inequality b...
key gaps in research

If mobile devices are used (or usable) primarily

type of non-users often gets counted in partic-

2...
key gaps in research

case study: club penguin

Club Penguin: gamethemed virtual world

Launched in 2005, Club Penguin was...
key gaps in research

case study: club penguin

commitment. Items are emphasized throughout the game environment

(includi...
key gaps in research

case study: club penguin

status on their own terms, the linkage between status and items is not
onl...
key gaps in research

The disproportionate attention paid to the

the way in which children’s engagements with

Facebook o...
key gaps in research

statistics down a bit further, Pew reports that

classification system in each case study,

Extendin...
key gaps in research

case study: little big planet

LittleBigPlanet: usergenerated content game
Social networking through...
key gaps in research

case study: little big planet

The emphasis on easy access extends to the publishing process as well...
key gaps in research

case study: little big planet

for example, provide a “fansite” starter kit. The in-game, consoleena...
key gaps in research

Multiple literacies: needs and opportunities

2011). Among teens, nearly a quarter (24%) use

are do...
key gaps in research

table 1: Literacies  Skills for and from Social Networking (drawn largely from Jenkins et al (2006) ...
key gaps in research

in online social networking forums. Two key

2006, Jenkins et al. drew up a list of these liter-

(S...
key gaps in research

case study: cisco networking academy

Cisco Networking
Academy on Facebook
Knowledge sharing affinit...
key gaps in research

case study: cisco networking academy

According to a Cisco Networking Academy representative, the be...
key gaps in research

case study: cisco networking academy

one of the ambassadors makes his own, informal video tutorials...
key gaps in research

Having a broad number of weak ties can also

new social settings—and SNF can provide

sharing, and s...
key gaps in research

methodological reliance on self-report and

contribute much more directly to the game

ects, remixin...
key gaps in research

addition to perpetuating harmful myths about
kids and online social networking, such media
classific...
key gaps in research

case study: whyville

Whyville: A science
education virtual world

Whyville.net is among the very fi...
key gaps in research

case study: whyville

increasingly Numedeon has been adding more opportunities for creative
design, ...
expanding
our
definition
of social
networking
From our review of the literature, it is clear that if we are
ever to unders...
expanding our definition of more inclusive research media

In this section, we suggest a classification

worlds and game s...
expanding our definition of more inclusive research media

traditional messages akin to within-site emails.

communication...
expanding our definition of more inclusive research media

case study: scratch.mit.edu

Scratch.mit.edu:
a programming  me...
expanding our definition of more inclusive research media

case study: scratch.mit.edu

Productions, see Brennan, Valverde...
expanding our definition of more inclusive research media

case study: scratch.mit.edu

age of 13 (for instance an animal ...
[2012] Kids Online - A New Research Agenda for Understanding Social Networking Forums
[2012] Kids Online - A New Research Agenda for Understanding Social Networking Forums
[2012] Kids Online - A New Research Agenda for Understanding Social Networking Forums
[2012] Kids Online - A New Research Agenda for Understanding Social Networking Forums
[2012] Kids Online - A New Research Agenda for Understanding Social Networking Forums
[2012] Kids Online - A New Research Agenda for Understanding Social Networking Forums
[2012] Kids Online - A New Research Agenda for Understanding Social Networking Forums
[2012] Kids Online - A New Research Agenda for Understanding Social Networking Forums
[2012] Kids Online - A New Research Agenda for Understanding Social Networking Forums
[2012] Kids Online - A New Research Agenda for Understanding Social Networking Forums
[2012] Kids Online - A New Research Agenda for Understanding Social Networking Forums
[2012] Kids Online - A New Research Agenda for Understanding Social Networking Forums
[2012] Kids Online - A New Research Agenda for Understanding Social Networking Forums
[2012] Kids Online - A New Research Agenda for Understanding Social Networking Forums
[2012] Kids Online - A New Research Agenda for Understanding Social Networking Forums
[2012] Kids Online - A New Research Agenda for Understanding Social Networking Forums
[2012] Kids Online - A New Research Agenda for Understanding Social Networking Forums
[2012] Kids Online - A New Research Agenda for Understanding Social Networking Forums
[2012] Kids Online - A New Research Agenda for Understanding Social Networking Forums
[2012] Kids Online - A New Research Agenda for Understanding Social Networking Forums
[2012] Kids Online - A New Research Agenda for Understanding Social Networking Forums
[2012] Kids Online - A New Research Agenda for Understanding Social Networking Forums
[2012] Kids Online - A New Research Agenda for Understanding Social Networking Forums
[2012] Kids Online - A New Research Agenda for Understanding Social Networking Forums
[2012] Kids Online - A New Research Agenda for Understanding Social Networking Forums
[2012] Kids Online - A New Research Agenda for Understanding Social Networking Forums
[2012] Kids Online - A New Research Agenda for Understanding Social Networking Forums
[2012] Kids Online - A New Research Agenda for Understanding Social Networking Forums
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[2012] Kids Online - A New Research Agenda for Understanding Social Networking Forums

  1. 1. Kids online A new research agenda for understanding social networking forums Dr. Sara M. Grimes Faculty of Information University of Toronto Dr. Deborah A. Fields College of Education Utah State University Fall 2012 The Joan Ganz Cooney Center at Sesame Workshop with support from Cisco Systems and the MacArthurUCHRI Digital Media and Learning Research Hub at the University of California, Irvine
  2. 2. table of contents introduction p. 5 executive summary existing research: usage trends p. 7 p. 3 kids online p. 11 p. 36 p. xx p. 48 references endnotes p. 58 p. 67 2 the joan ganz cooney center expanding our definition of social networking key gaps in research conclusion: towards a more inclusive research agenda
  3. 3. executive summary We are also concerned with online sites and participation in and across these forums. To younger ages are engaging in online social other forums directed toward or highly popu- support this end, we suggest a new classifi- networking today—a development that is lated by kids aged 5-18 that have an underlying cation system for examining SNF and their leading to a surge of news stories, media ”social-ness” to them—sites that, by design, features related to the forms of communica- attention, and economic investment. These promote kids’ socializing and networking as a tion they enable, the personal profiles they shifts in usage and public discussion demand primary (if not sole) activity. These sites include allow users to create, the networking residues a better understanding of the ways that social more traditionally thought of “social network they encourage, and the hierarchies of Access networking sites mediate kids’ socializing sites” (SNS) like Facebook and MySpace, but they afford. This classification system also and the opportunities and limits they place also encompass virtual worlds, networked serves as a way to broaden the scope and on kids’ participation. games, and project-sharing sites. Throughout definition of what we talk about when we this paper, we introduce the term social talk about social networking and kids. This paper is a first step in that direction. kids online A growing number of kids at increasingly networking forums (or SNF) to refer to this Over the past several years, overall participa- Here we attempt to establish what we already activities, practices, and platforms. Because tion in online social networking has steadily know about kids’ social networking activities most research on online social networking increased across the world. Studies document and identify key gaps in our collective knowl- focuses only on the traditional social network a consistent and significant increase in online edge of these as-yet-emerging practices. This sites, little is known about what social social network usage among teens and young paper also addresses the underlying question networking practices look like in these other adults. Though less thoroughly documented, of how kids’ social networking is defined and types of forums, some of which are specifically a similar upward trend is becoming apparent delineated: What is it we are referring to directed toward children. among kids between the ages of 9 and 12. Regarding the SNF practices of younger when we talk about kids and online social networking? What technologies, activities, To remedy this substantive gap in research, children, especially those 8 years old and and platforms are involved? Who is included we point to the need to document and younger, we have little to no research in this discussion, and who and what are understand social networking across many evidence despite the rise in online forums being left out? different types of forums (platforms, tech- directed specifically toward this age group. nologies, and genres) and to research kids’ 3 the joan ganz cooney center broad, more inclusive range of online social
  4. 4. executive summary This gap in our knowledge is problematic social networking in keeping with the issues limits, rules, and restrictions on children’s because we cannot assume that children use and research addressed in that particular social networking as well as how families, SNF in the same way as teens or young section of the paper. siblings, peers, and schools influence children’s online social networking. adults. Children are at a much different stage The omission of younger kids from so many of the large-scale reports reviewed in this Finally, we also call for more research into the different influences at home and school that paper points to an urgent need for research practices of the adults who design, manage may affect their participation in SNF. Given that specifically investigates the online social and regulate children’s social networking, that research on the social networking prac- networking practices of kids under the age of including discussion of how developers are tices of younger children (especially those 12, and especially under the age of 9. As such, negotiating child-specific legal policies (e.g. under the age of 9) tends to be fragmented we call for research on children, specifically COPPA), marketing tactics, and age-related and incomplete, we aim to redress these in regard to their particular developmental content or restrictions on activities (e.g. chat omissions by documenting and highlighting needs and social contexts, as well as their filters). This also reflects a need to under- the sites and activities that children and own preferences and practices. We ask: what stand how children themselves navigate tweens (i.e. those between the ages of 5 and are children doing in social networking these legal policies, manage their information 13 years) are actively engaged in to date. forums, how does that relate to their develop- and privacy online, push back against site mental trajectories, and what does that mean designs, produce content, and influence site As part of this attempt, we feature several for their social and cognitive development as development. case studies regarding SNF primarily popu- well as their developing literacies in digital lated with children and include several participation and production? different kinds of forums throughout the paper. These begin to demonstrate the range Research on Internet use in the home has of types of participation within these consistently demonstrated that family different kinds of forums. Each case describes dynamics play a crucial role in children’s and a very different type of SNF, with the focus parents’ activities and experiences online. We placed on a different facet of children’s online need further research on the role of parental 4 the joan ganz cooney center their older counterparts and often have kids online of development cognitively and socially than
  5. 5. introduction online social networking as it spreads “social networking sites” (SNS), or as we will forums that have an underlying ”social-ness” across different sites and technologies, and argue more broadly, ”social networking to them—in other words, sites that promote to better represent what social networking forums” (SNF), at increasingly younger ages, kids’ socializing and networking as a primary looks like when younger children are which is leading to a surge of news stories, (if not sole) activity by design, and are either involved. Throughout this paper, we have media attention, and economic investment. directed toward or highly populated by kids therefore opted to use the term “social In tandem with these developments, there is aged 5-18. We draw on boyd and Ellison’s networking forums” (or SNF) when referring a need to develop a better understanding of (2007) definition of “social network sites,” to this broader, more inclusive range of the ways that these digital technologies but we also expand upon it, because social online social activities, practices, and mediate kids’ socializing as well as the rela- network sites have both changed and devel- platforms. tive opportunities and limitations for their oped in the years since their definition. Today, participation in them. This white paper is a there are both more and different kinds of In our overview, we also aim to reveal major first step in that direction. It attempts to social network sites, and we need a broader gaps in the current literature and popular establish what we already know about kids’ definition to account for them. For instance, discussion surrounding kids and social social networking activities and identify key virtual worlds for children have grown in networking. Some of the gaps we identify are gaps in our knowledge. The paper also number and popularity in recent years and simply a result of the newness of the topic— addresses the underlying question of how serve as a gathering place for children to many of the software programs involved are kids’ social networking is defined and delin- meet, socialize, and play. Networked games very recent innovations and research into eated: What is it that we are referring to provide opportunities to socialize online their usage is still in the early stages. As we when we talk about kids and online social through consoles in addition to the typical will attempt to demonstrate, however, other networking? What technologies, activities home computer. While also focusing on gaps reflect more systematic oversights and platforms are involved? Who is included creative design, project-sharing sites for kids primarily because of a lack of large-scale in this discussion, and who and what are also allow kids to share, receive feedback on, research into the activities of kids. When it being left out? and often remix each other’s projects. We comes to online social activities, young adults include these kinds of sites in our discussion are by far the most systematically studied, to capture the ongoing diversification of though teens have been included in recent 5 the joan ganz cooney center We are concerned with online sites and other kids online A growing number of kids1 are using online
  6. 6. introduction large-scale survey research. Younger age groups are understudied and under-reported even though sites targeted to children are blossoming in numbers and gaining recognition by media conglomerates such as Disney and Viacom. Given that research on the social networking practices of younger children (especially those under the age of 9) tends to be fragmented and incomplete, this white documenting and highlighting the sites and kids online paper aims to redress these omissions by activities that children and tweens (i.e. those between the ages of 5 and 13 years) are 6 actively engaged in. the joan ganz cooney center
  7. 7. existing research usage trends We begin with a cursory mapping of the latest usage rates and trends regarding social networking among kids of different ages and demographic backgrounds. This overview is drawn from a set of recent reports and surveys produced by private research institutions, governmental bodies, non-profit and non-governmental organizations, and academics.
  8. 8. the existing research: usage trends relatively high. As Lenhart, Purcell, Smith and define social networking in the same way, date, this age group has remained one of Zickuhr (2010) described in a recent Pew and although much of the early data collected the most consistently tracked and heavily Internet & American Life report, “73% of pertains primarily to teens and tweens (and reported within the literature. This growing wired American teens now use social often does not include younger age groups), body of longitudinal data on teens’ online networking websites” (p.2), representing a the findings are nonetheless useful in social networking has the benefit of allowing marked increase from prior studies which tracking important changes in how and how researchers to track changes (in behavior, documented SNS usage at 65% of teens in often kids’ online social networking occurs frequency, platform, etc.) over time. For February 2008 and 55% of teens in November and is measured. Taken as a whole, these instance, according to the most recent 2006. Meanwhile, according to a Benenson large-scale reports begin to paint a rough but Pew Internet and American Life Project report Strategy Group study commissioned by multi-faceted picture of the rise of social (Madden & Zickuhr, 2011), 83% of young Common Sense Media in 2009 which networking among increasingly younger adults (aged 18 to 29) who use the Internet surveyed teens aged 13-18 years and their users and its ongoing spread across a diverse use SNS. Although this represents a slight parents, “Social networking sites have array of platforms and contexts. decrease from 2010 (86%), usage of SNS become a major part of teens’ daily interac- among this age group has overall increased tions, with over half of all teens (51%) steadily and significantly in the past six checking the sites more than once a day and years, from 9% in 2005, to 67% in 2008 almost a quarter (22%) checking more than 10 (Madden & Zickuhr, 2011). International times a day” (n.p.). The research indicates studies, such as research conducted by the that social networking among online teens Participation in social networking sites has EU Kids Online project, indicates a similar rise has risen at a steady pace over the past steadily increased over the past several years in social networking among online teens in several years, a trend that has been replicated across the world. Early research into online various countries around the world. in various countries around the world. For trends and demographics of young participants in social networking sites instance, a cross-national survey of the social networking, including foundational studies by boyd (2004, 2007) and the Pew Among teens (defined in much of the litera- online practices of children and teens across Internet and American Life Project (2007, 2010) ture as users between the ages of 12 and 17), the European Union found that 77% of established the activity as particularly use of social networking sites is also internet users aged 13-16 years reported 8 the joan ganz cooney center popular among teens and young adults. To kids online While not all of the reports included herein
  9. 9. the existing research: usage trends using a social networking site, with 46% iden- likely to go online than older teens: “Fully worthy of our attention for the simple reason tifying Facebook as the one they used the 95% of teens ages 14-17 go online compared that more and more kids are spending more most (Livingstone, Ólafsson & Staksrud, 2011). with 88% of teens ages 12-13” (Lenhart et of their time on them. al., 2010). Evidence of this trend is further extended and supported by the most recent As one might notice from the statistics among tweens as well—a term that is vary- Kaiser Family Foundation report, which reported above, there is little data regarding ingly (and oftentimes problematically) used reveals that in 2009 the average time spent kids under the age of 12, and even less on to describe kids between the ages of 9 and on social networking among 8-10 year olds children under the age of 9. In fact, we had to 12. A full 46% of the 12 year-olds surveyed in was 5 minutes, compared to 29 minutes for look to international studies in order to the 2010 Pew study reported using a social 11-14 year olds, and 26 minutes for 15-18 include findings relating to pre-adolescents in network site (Lenhart et al., 2010). The EU year olds (Rideout, Foehr & Roberts, 2010). our summary of published usage trends. kids online A similar trend is now becoming apparent Although information about the social Kids Online project found that more than Though less thoroughly documented, a networking activities of teens continues to from various European countries had their similar upward trend is now becoming grow and deepen, younger children have been own profile on a social networking site apparent among tweens. Surveys conducted conspicuously absent from large-scale inqui- (Livingstone et al., 2011). However, the by both Pew and the EU Kids Online projects ries into youth social networking practices. It research suggests that the likelihood of have found that significant percentages of is only recently that questions about chil- SNS use among today’s kids still tends to tweens are now using social network sites, dren’s computer use and online social increase with age. For instance, the EU Kids although the likelihood of social network site networking practices have been included in Online study found that in the UK, SNS use use still tends to increase with age (Lenhart large-scale, quantitative investigations. While ranged from 20% of 9 year olds to 90% of 16 et al., 2010; Livingstone et al., 2011). The key studies that have surveyed the online activi- year olds (Livingstone et al., 2011). Notably, takeaway from our review is that there has ties of younger users now identify social this accords with more generally observed been a gradual upward trend in online social networking among children as young as 8 age differences in kids’ Internet use. For networking participation by users aged 12-18 years, these findings are often partial and do instance, the most recent Pew study found over the past several years. These statistics not yet benefit from the type of longitudinal that younger teens are still slightly less are powerful in pointing out that SNS are or comparative findings currently available 9 the joan ganz cooney center a third (38%) of children aged 9-12 years
  10. 10. the existing research: usage trends omission in the literature that actively parti- are more likely engaged in often expand existing hard data available upon which to tions research on gaming/virtual worlds across a variety of contexts and platforms. In substantiate the now common assumption studies (play) and affinity and project spaces the following section (Part II) we address that kids are using SNS at increasingly research (creativity) from the more tradition- these gaps, drawing on literature and younger ages, or to begin to evaluate how the ally defined social networking literature. For research focused on those aspects of chil- behaviors and usage patterns of younger instance, the Kaiser Family Foundation survey dren’s digital culture that serve as useful children may have changed over time. For (Rideout et al., 2010) distinguishes between entry points into understanding their online instance, the Kaiser Family Foundation only social networking, games and video sites social networking. This sets the stage for started studying social networking in 2009, such as YouTube. The report thus provides broadening the study of online social and at the time of this writing has not yet separate statistics and time use frequencies networking from traditional sites like published new data upon which longitudinal for each of the three categories. Facebook and MySpace to other social kids online for older age groups. There is thus very little networking forums (SNF) that include virtual comparisons can be made. worlds, online games, and project sharing Given that much of the research to date has for the strong possibility that a significant sites. A framework for this is outlined in Part focused on young adults and teens, it is their proportion of younger children’s social III, which provides an alternative definition of habits and practices that have been the most networking practices may well occur within online social networking that takes better influential in shaping our existing under- games, video sharing sites, and other non- account of the multiple platforms and diverse standing of what a ”social network site” is. A traditional yet highly social online forums. practices kids of different ages engage in, key example of this can be found in the Because of the way in which children’s including the younger kids so often excluded tendency to equate online social networking engagements with new media tend to be from the discussion. with traditional sites such as Facebook and categorized by platform rather than activity or MySpace. Other platforms such as games, use, little is known about what social virtual worlds, and online communities are networking practices look like in other types largely classified separately, even though of multiuser forums. Additionally, research many of them contain social networking suggests that these overlooked social activities. Additionally, there is a current networking practices and forums that kids 10 the joan ganz cooney center However, this classification fails to account
  11. 11. key gaps in research While participation in social networking forums has increased steadily over the past several years, we still know very little regarding who the participants in these spaces are, what those spaces consist of, what kinds of activities kids are engaging in there, and what those activities mean for kids’ learning and development.
  12. 12. key gaps in research In this section we seek to illuminate the gaps literacies to identity work, creative practices, argue, for instance, both the extent of use and in the research on who, what, how, and to and even nonconforming practices that go the reasons for low and non-use of the what end kids are participating in social beyond the intentions of site designers. Internet by kids vary significantly by age. networking forums. We begin by arguing that Finally, given our discussion of the multiple These findings demand a very different way age does matter—we cannot simply map kinds of social networking forums that are of thinking about “children’s” use of SNF— findings about young adults and teens’ activi- relevant to kids, we suggest several ways to namely, as a diverse assortment of activities ties in social networking forums onto chil- move forward in describing the range and and relationships that defy the kind of broad dren. Children have different needs and types of social networking forums (SNF) that age groupings commonly found in statistical different constraints. currently exist. This description will also help reports and media coverage. We also consider current participation divides future research in order to unpack how Consider, for instance, the compelling, among kids of different ages, genders, ethnic- different kinds of sites shape and respond to emerging evidence that an important shift in ities, and experiences and what those might kids’ activities within them. usage takes place at around age 8. Although kids online to outline areas to compare and contrast in say about who is participating in SNF and age matters: one size does not fit all households with children are more likely than any other group to have home Internet access (particularly broadband) (OECD, 2008), a recent pation. Next, we point out that online social networking takes place in a wider variety of As only a small number of the more recent report conducted by The Joan Ganz Cooney forums than typically considered. When studies on SNF examine the participation of Center at Sesame Workshop (Gutnick, Robb, studying kids’ online social networking, we kids under the age of 13 years, we must be Takeuchi & Kotler 2011) demonstrates that should consider not just traditional social careful not to equate children’s participation children don’t begin to “extend their media network sites like Facebook and MySpace but in online social networking forums with that habits deeper into the digital realm” (p.30) until also virtual worlds, networked games, and of teens and young adults. Research into sometime between the ages of 7 and 92. This project-sharing sites. Subsequently we briefly other aspects of kids’ digital technologies shift correlates with the available data on chil- consider the range of activities that are rele- usage suggests that age definitely matters dren’s Internet use. As Gutnick et al. describe, vant to study in SNF and what those activities when it comes to the differentiation of online “In a typical day, about 30% of 3-to-5-year-old might mean to kids, from multiple new practices. As Livingstone and Helsper (2007) children use the Internet, compared with about the joan ganz cooney center what they might be gaining from that partici- 12
  13. 13. key gaps in research 50% of 6-to-9-year olds. And the breakdown development (cognitively and socially) than removed an average of 20,000 accounts created within this 6-to-9-year-old group confirms the their older counterparts and often have by underage users every day (Smith, 2011). shift in media habits. Fewer than half of 6-year- different influences at home and school that olds (47%) use the Internet on a typical day, may affect their participation in SNF. is a deeper consideration of why children compared with more than two-thirds (67%) of 8-year-olds” (p. 30). Thus, a key question becomes whether and how these broader Missing from recent public discourse however The magical disappearing, reappearing of kids under 13 under the age of 13 years are not allowed on the site in the first place. A key factor is the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act changes in Internet usage might translate (COPPA), which restricts the type of information websites are allowed to collect directly Thus, although media coverage about number of critical trends that warrant further from users under the age of 13 years (upon younger children on Facebook and the recent examination and discussion. First, evidence registration, for example) and prohibits sites advent of child-specific online social indicates that at least some tweens and from displaying any personally identifiable networks such as Scuttlepad and Everloop younger children have been ignoring or information about child users (such as name, provide strong support for the idea that bypassing the age restrictions put in place by email, address, etc.), including data and younger children are engaging with SNF, the traditional social networking forums such as content posted by the children themselves lack of substantive empirical research of their Facebook and MySpace, which formally prohibit (such as in a forum or via a chat tool). COPPA practices, concerns, and motivations users under the age of 133. A recent study represents a particularly powerful factor influ- precludes us from understanding what they conducted by Consumer Reports states, “Of the encing younger children’s access to SNF. Some are doing, thinking, and feeling as they 20 million minors who actively used Facebook scholars argue that although COPPA was origi- engage there. We cannot assume that chil- in the past year, 7.5 million—or more than nally introduced to protect and foster chil- dren use SNF in the same way as teens; we one-third—were younger than 13 and not dren’s participation in online culture, it has cannot draw definitive parallels between supposed to be able to use the site” (“That also had the unintended consequence of offi- teens’ usage and children’s usage simply Facebook Friend,” 2011). During the same time cially closing off vast swaths of the Internet because the latter is of a younger age. period, Facebook Inc.’s Chief Privacy Advisor, from younger children (Montgomery, 2007; Children are at a much different stage of Mozelle Thompson, reported that the site Grimes, 2008). For instance, until quite recently 13 the joan ganz cooney center still emerging, preliminary analysis suggests a kids online While the data on younger children in SNF are into changes in SNF participation.
  14. 14. key gaps in research it had become common for sites containing access those communities” (p. 25). Indeed, children are often excluded from actual social networking features to formally prohibit numerous studies of children’s online activities research studies, they are nevertheless evoked users under the age of 13 years, rather than have found that children frequently lie about in news coverage of “kids and social tackle the challenge of meeting COPPA their age in order to join age-restricted sites networking” trends (see Figure 2 below). This requirements (Montgomery, 2007). This prohi- (Livingstone, 2008a; Shade, Porter & Sanchez, appropriating tactic is also evidenced in policy bition trend even extends to sites where age 2005; Steeves, 2006; Turow, 2001), and many and design decisions that directly impact chil- restrictions would not otherwise be necessary; children prefer to frequent sites that are dren’s access and participation rights, as well in many online game sites and virtual worlds, designed for adults (Steeves & Webster, 2008). as in discussions of perceived negative effects or possible benefits of SNF usage. children under the age of 13 are banned even otherwise inapplicable. These examples illus- like Facebook has raised concern among the trate how the hitherto common practice of public, parents, and policymakers. While quali- banning kids from SNF may have as much to tative research suggests that younger kids bring While we often think of the digital divide as do with policy compliance as with issues of a complex and uneven set of skills, strategies, largely resolved, children today still experience age appropriateness. and literacies to their online social interactions, important barriers and inequalities in the shortage of large-scale, comprehensive data accessing SNF and in partaking in its associ- Not surprisingly, children have found a myriad on children under the age of 13 means there is ated opportunities for cultural participation of ways around these formal age barriers, a lot we still don’t know about how they use and learning. Their experiences, however, becoming active—although not always SNF, under what conditions (e.g. parental moni- must be contextualized within a new interpre- welcome—participants within multiple SNF toring), and for what purposes. Until more tation of “digital divide” that recognizes that that claim to be targeted exclusively to teens research becomes available, there is a serious equity moves beyond simple questions of and adults. As Jenkins, Purushotma, Weigel, risk of extrapolating findings and conclusions Access or use/non-use of the Internet and/or Clinton, and Robison (2009) describe, “many drawn from previous research on older kids computers4 (Hassani, 2006; Dimaggio, Hargittai, sites depend on self-disclosure to police onto younger, still very much understudied Celeste & Shafer, 2004; Warschauer, 2003). In whether the participants are children or adults. demographic groups. We see evidence of this in keeping with this broadened view, scholars Yet many young people seem willing to lie to the paradoxical fact that although younger like Jenkins et al. (2006; 2009) argue that the Participation divides 14 the joan ganz cooney center The fact that younger children are using SNF kids online though a “T” rating has not been assigned or is
  15. 15. key gaps in research tendency to “focus on studying digital Similarly, Livingstone & Helsper (2007) concur inequality by differentiating types that age is an important yet often overlooked of uses and skills, and mounting concerns factor when it comes to questions of Internet about a participation gap” (p.242). Rather than access and equity. focus solely on issues of Internet access, they tant differences in usage and access follow pation, as well as to the quality of engage- along traditional socioeconomic and demo- ment. In parallel, Ito, Horst, Bittani & Boyd graphic lines, particularly race, ethnicity, (2010) state that more complex and sophisti- gender, education (highest level of education cated forms of engagement, including online obtained by parent(s)), and household income socializing and participating in “networked (Warschauer & Matuchniak, 2010). Tracing public spaces,” requires “ongoing, lightweight rates of home Internet access by race over a access to digital production tools and the 10-year period, scholars show that important Internet” (p.346). Thus the notion of a digital racial gaps have persisted over time. According divide must now be understood in terms of to a Pew report conducted by Purcell, Entner & depth of engagement, level of participation, Henderson, (2010), “for a significant portion of multiple points of Access (Hassani, 2006), and low income and nonwhite adults, cell phones various other factors. represent their only means of Accessing the Internet and engaging in some online activi- framework of a participation divide is most rele- The notion of a digital divide is further compli- ties” (p.19). It is important to view these find- vant to the discussion because it is not as cated when dealing with kids, since as Hargittai ings through a critical lens. Watkins (2011) much a matter of who is or is not participating & Walejko (2008) also point out, “concerns of warns, for instance, that an increase in mobile in SNF, but rather what kinds of participation digital inequality are less likely to revolve Internet access among blacks and other users engage in. Hargittai and Walejko (2008) around issues of Access given that they repre- minority groups tells us very little about the describe this argument as an increasing sent the most connected age group” (p.240). types of activities that are enacted or enabled. 15 the joan ganz cooney center the persistence of differential rates of partici- Figure 1: Sample of recent news coverage The literature also indicates that some impor- kids online suggest more consideration should be given to
  16. 16. key gaps in research If mobile devices are used (or usable) primarily type of non-users often gets counted in partic- 2010, acquired by Disney in early 2011 and for consuming rather than producing content, ipation statistics, especially those regarding closed in early 2012, the site described itself as for instance, enduring inequalities may be the number of registered users on particular a “social online community for families where reproduced despite expanding rates of Access site. For example, sources that use the total parents create safe online neighborhoods for (Hargittai, 2010; Hargittai & Walejko, 2008). number of accounts ever created as an indi- their kids (under 10) to play and connect with Similar arguments are made with regard to cator of a site’s popularity, rather than refer- the real-life friends and family they already gender divisions within kids’ use of SNF. ring to the number of active users within a know and trust” (“Rupnow,” 2012). Research by Lenhart et al. (2010) shows that given month or the number of users who log female and male adolescents are equally likely on at least once a month. qualitative studies suggest important differences in the ways and places boys and girls expanding the range of platforms considered join an already vast assortment of non-traditional social networking forums, such as virtual worlds and project spaces that have been aimed at and enthusiastically used by engage online (Livingstone & Helsper, 2007; kids online to use traditional SNF such as Facebook, yet It is important to remember that these sites tweens and younger children for several years. children using SNF, a key development driving As described in Part II, these forums include There is also a need to address the various increased interest in this area is the recent virtual worlds such as Club Penguin and types of users who get clumped together as influx of child-specific social networking sites. Webkinz (both launched in 2006), Wiglington ”non-users” of SNF. The non-users group may One example is Everloop, which was launched and Wenks (launched in 2009), project sites include both people who do not actually go in 2011 and is aimed at children between 8 to such as Scratch (2008) and Storybird (2009), onto SNFs at all, as well as those who simply 13 years of age. The site is advertised as a and the LittleBigPlanet console-enabled do not produce lasting “residues” (like creating “safer, online, social homebase for kids under network (2008). These latter types of SNF are their own profile), or who decide not to publish 13. Everloop is a free place where kids can rarely counted alongside traditional sites that content online. This group also includes those connect with friends, play games, share conform more directly to the characteristics who might start constructing an SNF profile pictures, send messages, discover new talents, and expectations associated with well-known and then quit, or who lurk in a virtual world learn and have fun” (Everloop, n.d.). Another social networking platforms like Facebook or without interacting with others. This latter was the short-lived Togetherville. Launched in MySpace. Lin, 2008; Fields & Kafai, 2010a). the joan ganz cooney center In addition to the recent reports of younger 16
  17. 17. key gaps in research case study: club penguin Club Penguin: gamethemed virtual world Launched in 2005, Club Penguin was originally developed by an independent Canadian game design studio, Club Penguin Entertainment, Inc. (formerly New Horizons, Inc.). In 2007, it was purchased by the Walt Disney Internet Group (WDIG) for an estimated $350 million. Since its The virtual world as social network inception, the virtual world has operated on a monthly subscription Stats (as of January 2012) but that significantly limits users’ access to game features and areas. • aunched October 2005, free/monthly subscription, developed by L • 150 million registered users • 6-14 year olds (open to all ages) • International (available in 5 languages) Both Club Penguin Inc. and Disney describe Club Penguin as “ad-free,” a feature that is used within public relations materials to justify the monthly subscription rate. The omission of ads frequently appears as a key selling point in promotions targeted to parents. kids online Club Penguin Entertainment Inc., acquired by Disney in 2007 model. It also offers a “non-membership” service, which is free-to-play 17 The Club Penguin community is highly engaged, which can be seen in the world. In addition to the round-the-clock moderator service provided by the game’s developer, players actively monitor one another for inappropriate behaviors. Many players volunteer to be official ”Tour Guides,“ showing new players around the virtual world and introducing them to its many features. Most impressive is the players’ commitment to the world’s in-game newspaper The Club Penguin Times, which receives 30,000 submissions from players every day in the form of articles, poems, and artwork. According to Club Penguin’s co-founder, Lane Merrifield, The Club Penguin Times is read by at least two-thirds of the game’s 6.7 million players, an audience share that far surpasses that of most real-world print newspapers (Chmielewski, 2008). the joan ganz cooney center various ways players participate in the ongoing construction of the virtual
  18. 18. key gaps in research case study: club penguin commitment. Items are emphasized throughout the game environment (including plush toys and action figures), books, a trading card game (in catalogs and competitions), and they are frequently described in (“Card-Jitsu™”), two games for the Nintendo DS (Club Penguin: Elite in-game texts and announcements (Grimes, 2010). Even non-paying Penguin Force and Club Penguin Elite Penguin Force: Herbert’s players are intermittently given special items for attending special Revenge), a Nintendo Wii game (Disney Club Penguin Game Day), and events, giving them an occasional glimpse into the “premium” experi- numerous other tie-ins. The combination of subscriptions and tie-in ence of avatar customization and enhancement. Additionally, certain products may help to explain why the site recently ranked seventh on a items have only been released once, which bestows additional status list of the world’s most profitable massively multiplayer online games onto those players who have been playing long enough to own one of (Pilley, 2009). The tie-in toys themselves flow back into the virtual world these coveted treasures. in a variety of important ways, including through the use of “special codes” that unlock special avatar costumes, items, abilities, and coins Since the majority of items are exclusive to paying members, a paid that can be used within the game world. subscription becomes an important way of marking oneself as a high kids online The success of Club Penguin has prompted the development of toys 18 status player—one who has attended exclusive events, explored secret members-only areas, and collected rare items. Paying members of tary” or “premium,” implying that they are somehow superfluous to a Club Penguin are granted access to exclusive parties, secret areas, and standard or regular form of gameplay, these hierarchies of Access are rare (free) items. These treasures are not only promoted through the in actuality more deeply embedded in the gameplay design than they players’ subsequent display of members-only items when they return initially appear (Grimes, 2010). In fact, it is often only after a player has to the common areas, but are also promoted heavily in featured articles surpassed the initial levels or areas of the game world that the true published in the game’s weekly newspaper and on the developer blog significance of the premium features is revealed. For example, in Club (Grimes, 2010). Penguin there are no “levels” for players to achieve, which limits players’ ability to demonstrate their mastery of the game. Instead, the A player’s status as a paying member of the virtual world is communi- accumulation and display of items is offered as a way to exhibit cated to the rest of the community largely through features of the world’s mastery, and items are used to reward player loyalty and financial graphical user interface (GUI). While players themselves may negotiate the joan ganz cooney center While the pay-to-play features are publicly promoted as “supplemen-
  19. 19. key gaps in research case study: club penguin status on their own terms, the linkage between status and items is not only constructed within the game design, but also communicated visually. For instance, many items can be worn or carried by the player’s avatar (Grimes, 2010). On one level, these marks of distinction generate the added value of the games’ pay-to-play features, providing paying customers with additional benefits and services that might justify the Communication Profile Chat with other avatars, Avatars and personal rooms possibly limited to pictographs (“igloos”), decorated with or selected words if limited by items gained from achieve- parents ments in play or purchased with virtual currency through ongoing financial investment required to maintain a monthly paid the in-game catalogue subscription, or to engage in repeated micro-transactions. On another kids online level, they serve to remind both paying and non-paying players alike that the pay-to-play features are exclusive in every sense of the term, reinforcing hierarchies of Access through their integration into the economics, designs, and storylines of the virtual world environment 19 Networking Residues Hierarchies of Access Recommended Reading: Friend lists, fan art, blog post Paid membership allows comments users to purchase additional • Marsh, 2010; Black, 2010; Grimes, 2010. decorations and avatar accessories (including “rare items”), admission to exclusive parties, and secret play spaces the joan ganz cooney center (Grimes, 2010).
  20. 20. key gaps in research The disproportionate attention paid to the the way in which children’s engagements with Facebook or MySpace, to allow users to create online social networking practices of teens and new media tends to be categorized by platform and manage customized social networks” young adults has meant that many studies rather than activity or use, little is known about (p.150). A growing number of studies examine have limited their investigations of social the forms and contents of the social how children use virtual worlds for social inter- networking to Facebook-type platforms. This networking practices that occur in other types action, particularly to establish group norms, has in turn produced a number of critical gaps of multiuser forums. form networks, and negotiate social capital (e.g. Fields Kafai, 2009b; Marsh, 2010; Black, 2008). in the existing literature. For instance, a survey described in a recent Kaiser Family Foundation From “sites” to multiple forums This work is beginning to reveal the ways in which younger children use social media tech- (Rideout et al., 2010) report distinguishes nologies to build and sustain their interper- sites such as YouTube, and provides separate the term “social networking forums” (SNF) sonal relationships, engage in informal statistics and time use frequencies for each of emerges from our conclusion that online social learning, and construct identity—all valuable these three categories. In so doing, it fails to networking happens across a broad number of contributions to the discussion of kids’ social account for the strong possibility that a signifi- online forums. Evidence for these cross-forum networking if defined with a broader lens. cant proportion of younger children’s social practices is particularly true of younger chil- networking practices might occur within dren, who interact—with each other and Use of virtual worlds remains limited to a games, on video sharing sites, and in other online—in highly diverse and often unique relatively small percentage of teens: only 8% non-traditional yet highly social online forums. ways. A pertinent example can be found in of the online teens in the Pew study reported It is significant to note that while children aged virtual worlds. Many virtual worlds contain visiting a virtual world like Habbo Hotel or 8-10 reported spending only 5 minutes a day on features and affordances that share deep simi- Whyville in 2009. That same year, market social networking, they also reported spending larities with traditional social network sites; analyst eMarketer estimated that 6 million 17 minutes gaming (compared to 19 minutes they enable many of the same practices identi- kids aged 3-11 years visited virtual worlds for kids aged 11-14, and 14 minutes for teens fied as key to the phenomenon and importance such as Club Penguin, Webkinz and Moshi aged 15-18), and another 8 minutes on video of online social networking. Lastowka (2010) Monsters at least once a month—a figure that sites (18 minutes for kids aged 11-14, and 16 suggests that, “Virtual world software is also Shields (2009) argues represents 37% of online minutes for users aged 15-18 years). Because of commonly designed, like the software of users from that age group. Breaking these 20 the joan ganz cooney center As described in the previous section, the use of kids online between social networking, games, and video
  21. 21. key gaps in research statistics down a bit further, Pew reports that classification system in each case study, Extending our analysis to include social usage is more prevalent among younger teens noting the forms of communication, profiles, networking activities unfolding across plat- (11% of online 12-13 year olds use virtual networking residues, and hierarchies of Access. forms and technological devices is therefore worlds) than older teens (7% of teens aged While each of these terms is described more an increasingly necessary step to fully assess 14-17 years), with no variation by sex, race, thoroughly in Part III, we found it helpful social networking activities. Given that studies ethnicity, or household income (Lenhart et al., to apply them as examples within the case also indicate that kids often engage with 2010). Thus, in keeping with the earlier argu- studies of virtual worlds, networked games, multiple platforms and screens concurrently ment about the need for more research project-sharing sites, and other social (Rideout et al., 2010), “media multitasking” examining younger children and their online networking forums. should be a core consideration in future inves- represent a particularly important addition to Multiple forums, multiple screens kids online tigations as well. practices, we contend that virtual worlds Such an expanded perspective is imperative the discussion because of their immense when addressing the current popularity of online social networking also suggests that we digital gaming among youth. According to As part of this argument, in the next several start looking beyond the personal computer Lenhart, et al. (2010), 80% of teens own a sections of this paper we feature several case when it comes to understanding the online gaming console (Xbox, Wii, etc.), and 51% own studies of SNF primarily populated with chil- behavior of young children. Social networking a portable gaming device (PSP, NDSi, etc.). In dren and include several different kinds of is as likely to take place on web-enabled both of these cases, boys remain more likely forums. These begin to demonstrate the range gaming consoles (such as the Nintendo Wii, to own a gaming device than girls. In the case of types of participation within these different PlayStation 3, Xbox 360) and handheld devices of portable games, the differences become kinds of settings. Each case describes very (iPad, Nintendo 3DS, Android) as it is via slighter: 89% of boys aged 12-17 own game different types of SNF, with the focus placed personal computers. Even mobile phones now console compared to 70% of girls in the same on a different facet of children’s online social offer social networking apps (from the mobile- age group; 56% of boys and 47% of girls own a networking in keeping with the issues and ready version of Facebook to device-specific portable gaming device5 (Lenhart et al., 2010). research addressed in that particular section social networks like Instagram), as well as Overall, 67% of families with children aged of the paper. We also begin to apply our mobile games with associated social networks. 0-8 years own a game console and 44% have a 21 the joan ganz cooney center Thinking beyond traditional definitions of popularity among elementary-aged children.
  22. 22. key gaps in research case study: little big planet LittleBigPlanet: usergenerated content game Social networking through web-enabled consoles • irst installment released in Fall 2008 by Media Molecule for the Sony F Playstation 3 (current generation home videogame console system), sequel released in 2011, Playstation Portable (PSP) version released in 2009, PSVita releases in 2012 • 9.5 million copies sold (so far) • International (available in more than 13 languages) associated versions on Playstation portable devices (PSP and the upcoming PSVita). The game is noteworthy for a number of reasons—not least of which is the 5 million additional new, player-created game levels that players have generated and published online since its launch in Fall 2008. It has a vibrant community of player-creators who share content, play together, and otherwise interact through both an in-game network (which becomes available when the internet-enabled console is connected to the Internet) and a more traditional online social network, LBP.me, along with various unofficial and fan-driven forums. The game is rated E for everyone, and it is marketed to a general audience. While it is unclear 22 what exact proportion of their player base consists of children (the company has not released demographic details about its users), there is evidence to assert that at least some players are children. With 9.5 million copies of the games sold worldwide, it is considered to be one of the most popular game series currently available. The game has a story mode that extols the value and importance of sharing, exploring, and creating. The story mode also serves as an extended tutorial through which players are introduced to a cross section of what is possible to make and do with the game’s usergenerated content (UGC) tools and templates. Through play, users discover and collect assorted materials, objects, and stickers, which the joan ganz cooney center • Rated E for Everyone (by the ESRB) available on the Sony Playstation 3 (web-enabled videogame console), with kids online Stats (as of May 2012) Media Molecule’s LittleBigPlanet (LBP) is a videogame series exclusively
  23. 23. key gaps in research case study: little big planet The emphasis on easy access extends to the publishing process as well. game unique is its built-in level creator, which allows players to not Sharing levels with other players through the game’s online connection only customize levels and content, but build their own using both (part of the Playstation®Network) is a very easy process and takes only prefabricated objects as well as objects and images of their own one or two clicks. Exploring other players’ creations is intuitive and design. Using virtual cardboard, string, glue, and paint, players can encouraged at various stages of gameplay. There are various methods create their own two- or three-dimensional objects. In addition, players for finding player-developed levels to play—from ”MMPicks” (i.e. Media can make their own “stickers” using the PlayStation®Eye camera to Molecule’s regularly updated, curated selection of noteworthy player- capture images and textures from the player’s offline environment. made levels and games), to listings of the current most “popular” These stickers can be used to decorate both new and existing objects (according to player ratings) and most frequently played levels, to newest and spaces within the game. additions, to lists of games grouped by shared theme, keyword, or difficulty level. Players are repeatedly encouraged to rate each others’ games, to tag or “heart” their favorite games and game designers, and tutorials, which players can complete to learn more sophisticated tech- make lists for other players to consult. Participation in these creative niques like assigning specific behaviors to enemies or including a time and networking activities appears to be uncommonly high among the limit to enable racing games, etc. The level builder interface is LittleBigPlanet player community. Media Molecule maintains that the intended to help players learn to use the design tools—it is easy to use vast majority of its active players upload their creations to the online and becomes progressively more flexible through use and mastery. For network. According to Media Molecule co-founder Alex Evans, “Basically, instance, once players have successfully built a level using a pre-fabri- everybody publishes a level” (Gaston, 2011). cated template, they can quickly move on to creating one from scratch. However, building can also start almost immediately, as players are The key to LittleBigPlanet’s popularity is its “socialness”—players are able to bypass the majority of the tutorials and learn by trial and error not only able to create game levels, but they can also share and play if desired. There are thus very low barriers to entry when it comes to them with others, as well as explore an ever expanding universe of creating games in LittleBigPlanet. content created by other players (Grimes, forthcoming). The community also receives a good deal of support from the game’s developers who, 23 the joan ganz cooney center The level creator mode includes an extended series of interactive video kids online they can subsequently use to create their own levels. What makes this
  24. 24. key gaps in research case study: little big planet for example, provide a “fansite” starter kit. The in-game, consoleenabled network is further supported and extended by a more traditional web-based social networking forum (LBP.me), where an up-todate copy of the player’s in-game profiles, portfolios, information (friends, favorites, hearted levels, etc.), and activities are featured. Communication Profile Messages on game levels, Portfolios presented as sent directly to individual “worlds” that other players can players, etc. visit – every game is a continent or destination point on the world. Supplemented by a Here, players continue the conversations started in game, posting on player “card” that lists a player each other’s walls, sending messages, and interacting in forums. The hearted, etc. acters, worlds, and objects has not only made it relatively easy to build on prior knowledge and materials to create new levels for later game versions, but also fosters the kind of continuity necessary for sustained kids online bio, location, levels created fact that the game’s sequels tie into the original by carrying over char- 24 Networking Residues Hierarchies of Access Recommended Reading: Hearting, rating (happy face/sad Paid-for downloadable content face icons), reviewing and (DLC) (e.g. players can usually tagging (keywords) games. save a copy of new items Hearting players, adding discovered in other players’ players to friends lists, leaving levels, but DLC can only be them messages, “copying” saved by those who have other players’ content (bubbles, purchased it). Friend lists, Lists items, etc.). of “hearted” games and Grimes, forthcoming; Sotamaa, 2010; Westecott, 2011; Harper, 2011. players. the joan ganz cooney center community building.
  25. 25. key gaps in research Multiple literacies: needs and opportunities 2011). Among teens, nearly a quarter (24%) use are doing in SNF—as well as which kids are gaming consoles to go online and 19% do so getting the most out of these activities and in Since the advent of the computer, then the using their portable gaming devices (Lenhart et which forums. Many important new literacies Internet, and more recently social networks al., 2010). While these statistics do not indicate are necessary for participating deeply in online, the education community has been that kids spend all of their time on gaming some of the best practices available in SNF, abuzz with excitement about how technology devices engaging in social networking activi- from knowledge sharing to collaborative can promote or be designed to promote ties, there is emerging evidence to suggest that thinking to reading and producing multi- learning. There are many calls about using SNF a portion of the time spent on popular services modal texts with visual, audio, and hyper- to prepare the new types of citizens and entre- such as XBox Live involve networking types of linked information. Research also suggests preneurs society needs for future decades (e.g. behaviors. that SNF can also promote some forms of Collins Halverson, 2009; Thomas Brown, social and identity development. Emerging 2011) —people who can lead massive groups SNF that sponsor sharing creative designs (Brown Thomas, 2008), build collective may provide unique opportunities for chil- knowledge (Levy, 1997; McGonigal, 2008), and Not only do we need to broaden the scope of dren to develop these kinds of new literacies use distributed social networks to manage what kinds of forums and sites we include and social practices. Though these questions information too big for any one person. under the heading of social networking require much more extensive analysis of Certainly there is evidence that these skills forums, but we must also expand our views existing research and call for new investiga- can be acquired in SNF, but many agree that of what activities are relevant. It is imperative tions of these topics, in this section we briefly not everyone acquires these types of skills that we dispel the myths surrounding SNF, survey some of the current research on automatically (e.g. Jenkins et al, 2006, 2009; noting what is and is not a part of those sites learning, development, and creative play in Hargittai, 2010). As such, there is a need and who is and is not participating in the best SNF to ask what kind of participation is consider how to promote and support prac- practices available. This means demystifying required to gain these benefits of learning tices that facilitate getting the most out of SNF. the all too tempting idealization of tech- and development and what kinds of sites nology (that everything new and innovative is promote them. expanding the activity range good for us) and actually studying what kinds There are a number of skills and literacies that kids can and should learn in order to 25 the joan ganz cooney center of activities kids, and specifically children, kids online handheld gaming device (Common Sense,
  26. 26. key gaps in research table 1: Literacies Skills for and from Social Networking (drawn largely from Jenkins et al (2006) and Steinkuehler (2007)) Social, digital literacties Description Selected Examples Socially and materially Coordinating people, tools, artifacts, and text across Gaming forums in World of Warcraft (Steinkuehler Duncan, 2009) distributed cognition multiple multimedia, multimodal spaces Knowledge diffusion in Whyville (Fields Kafai, 2009b) Collective intelligence Jointly creating, sharing, and problem solving online Wikipedia (Benkler, 2006) repositories of community knowledge and skills Forums other knowledge network sites (McGonigal, 2008) For vision of collective intelligence see Levy (1997) Collaborative problem Problem solving in knowledge networks, games, and Critical commenting on projects (Games, 2010) solving practices project-sharing sites Co-creation and debugging of projects in Scratch (Brennan, Valverde, Prempeh, Roque Multi-modal Using specialized forms of textual, visual, and aural Fan fiction writing (Black, 2008) literacy practices modes of representation or combinations of them (multi- Website and avatar creations (Leander Frank, 2008) modal) for in-world social interaction, genres of writing, Networking profiles (boyd, 2007) and discursive argumentation Language practices in children’s virtual worlds (Black, 2010; Marsh, 2010; Black Reich, 2011) kids online Chung, 2011) 26 Multimodal literacy (Kress, 2003) Skills used to create programs and solve programming In Scratch (Resnick et al, 2009) problems, with special concern for debugging, iterative For vision of computational thinking see Wing (2006) design and large-scale computations like crowd-sourcing, and tagging Reciprocal apprenticeship Enculturating one another into valued practices and Apprenticeship into: thinking Gaming roles (Steinkuehler, 2006) Animating in Scratch (Brennan et al., 2011) Programming in Moose Crossing (Bruckman, 2000) Appropriation Sampling and remixing media content Remixing programs in Scratch (Monroy-Hernandez, Hill, Gonzalez-Rivero boyd, 2011) Assembling collaborative video projects (Luther, Caine, Ziegler Bruckman 2010). Transmedia navigation Following the flow of stories and information across Relates to thinking about multimodality (Kress, 2003) multiple modalities (games, books, movies, cards, writing, See also Jenkins et al. (2006, 2009) drawing, etc.) the joan ganz cooney center Computational thinking
  27. 27. key gaps in research in online social networking forums. Two key 2006, Jenkins et al. drew up a list of these liter- (Steinkuehler, 2011), the comparable worlds areas of social development involve devel- acies that has served well to map out the terri- designed for children often provide much oping “strong ties” with a few close friends tory of what kids need to learn. Since then more limited, homogenous texts (Carrington and “weak ties” with a number of other indi- others have also mapped out potential litera- Hodgetts, 2010 on Barbie Girls), contain fewer viduals (Granovetter, 1973). Both kinds of ties cies needed to participate in social, online affordances and action opportunities (Grimes, are important for social development. There worlds (e.g. Steinkuehler, 2007). In Table 1 we 2010), and even promote bad grammar is strong evidence that participation in SNF draw from these two major sources to produce because of word filters (Black, 2010). Literacy helps teens and young adults strengthen a list of literacies that should be a part of scholars highlight that the greatest opportuni- their existing relationships (e.g. Ellison, participating in social networking sites— ties for literacy development occur where kids Steinfield Lampe, 2007; Subrahmanyam, things that we feel kids ought to gain from are given the most freedom for expression, but Reich, Waechter Espinoza, 2008; Lenhart their participation in such sites. such expression is often limited (because of Madden, 2007). Indeed, using SNF to continue societal fears, etc.) on sites developed for chil- relationships may be particularly important An overview of the some of the key literature dren. This points to the immediate need for for kids like migrant youth whose families on children’s virtual worlds provides a perfect focused, empirical research into sites devel- are distributed around the world (Ünlüsoy case study for illustrating the importance of oped explicitly for children. It also suggests that de Haan, 2011). looking critically at learning on those sites. the new SNF that sponsor sharing creative While researchers largely agree that playing in designs might provide unique opportunities There is also evidence that participation in virtual worlds can provide many opportunities for children to develop new literacies, though SNS can help kids build and maintain “weak for reading, writing, and learning other multi- research is needed to support and critique ties” (Granovetter, 1973). For instance, a study modal forms of literacy in SNF, evidence is this position. by Steinfield, Ellison Lampe (2008) shows that using Facebook intensely especially growing that many of the virtual worlds for children that are currently available are impov- Social and identity development helped teens with low self-esteem. Through social networking on Facebook, youth were erished compared to those for teens and adults. While teens participating in the World of Social and identity development have been able to keep abreast of news and gossip from Warcraft may be engaging in reading and two of the more touted opportunities for kids school even if they were not in the “in” crowd. 27 the joan ganz cooney center creating text high above their grade level kids online participate fluently in today’s digital venues. In
  28. 28. key gaps in research case study: cisco networking academy Cisco Networking Academy on Facebook Knowledge sharing affinity space Stats (as of August 15, 2012) • aunched July, 2009, developed by Cisco Networking Academy L • 5,575 weekly active users, with approximate 546,416 weekly 1 total reach • 52% of users aged 18-24 years, 5% aged 13-17 years • 80% male, 20% female globe. Specifically, the Academy is an education program that affords students with the learning tools needed to design, build, troubleshoot and secure computer networks through online courses, interactive tools and practical learning activities. For example, The Ryerson White Ribbon Campaign page on Facebook lists a series of wall posts about group updates or event notifications but doesn’t entail many member comments or feedback even though there is an opportunity for any member to write something on the wall. Additionally these sites do not employ mechanisms to bring mini 28 communities together such as automatically connecting White Ribbon Campaign pages across different universities. The Networking Academy realized that these unused features have the potential to foster learning and knowledge transfer. Cisco Ripple, offers a resolve to these gaps by providing a service that carries students’ learning experiences across several mainstream social networks to a larger online community with relevant and timely information as well as opportunities for interaction, discussion and collaboration among members. In 2009, a Facebook page that connects back to the Ripple API was implemented as part of this larger strategy. the joan ganz cooney center • International (regular participation from users in over 20 countries) comprehensive ICT literacy skills to students in 165 countries across the kids online (and users) The Cisco Networking Academy was launched in 1997 to provide
  29. 29. key gaps in research case study: cisco networking academy According to a Cisco Networking Academy representative, the benefits of this relationship were manifold. Doing so helped to transform a corpo- period the page was being maintained by a single Cisco employee. As rate Facebook page into a vibrant affinity space, since members felt that daily activity on the site continued to boom, maintenance of member their input was valuable because it was acknowledged and rewarded. requests, user questions and postings by one person became This also helped to increase the sense of community as members unachievable. In order to ensure the page was achieving its goals, were given more freedom over content creation and organization. Cisco started locating members of the community space who seemed Responsibility was shifted to content providers, giving the community a knowledgeable and who could answer questions and provide basic sense of ownership and onus over the maintenance and quality of infor- support to other members. For instance, one member had started mation that was shared. A concurrent, private Facebook group was also recording his own video lessons and posting them, on his own initiative created where ambassadors and Cisco employees could discuss network and on a completely voluntary basis. Approval was sought to make issues, train new ambassadors, share information, organize webinars these expert members page administrators on an unpaid, voluntary and to talk about how to manage the space. The Cisco Networking basis, as a way of formalizing and acknowledging the value they were Academy Facebook page can thus be seen as a highly participatory and already adding to the space. In this, Cisco took inspiration from Coca engaging environment. When instructors don’t have time to answer Cola, which had established a similar relationship with the original questions other students will jump in to respond to ensure that no ques- creators of one of Facebook’s most popular unsanctioned fan sites of tion goes unanswered. Most importantly, it brings communities of people the Coca Cola brand, following Facebook’s decision to take away these together across the virtual and physical world to learn, collaborate and types of fan-produced pages in 2009. Rather than displace its fans, discuss topics of similar interests. Coca Cola turned them into brand ambassadors and provided support for their participatory culture activities. Cisco’s decision to adopt this Interestingly, the Facebook page has inspired many of the same prac- model stemmed largely from a lack of viable alternative means of tices found in game- and media-based affinity spaces and project sites. resolving its scalability and support issues. The members, meanwhile, For instance, there is a subculture among its members of making art took the opportunity and ran with it. and crafts out of the excess wires (left over from new network set-ups). Other members have posted pictures of network-themed cakes, while 29 the joan ganz cooney center tremendous growth in its first few months of operation, during which kids online The Cisco Networking Academy Facebook page saw immediate and
  30. 30. key gaps in research case study: cisco networking academy one of the ambassadors makes his own, informal video tutorials based on other users’ questions and requests. Although these activities are not directly tied into the networking academy system, the Networking Academy page administrators recognized their value in taking the learning experience to a deeper level of participation and engagement. As such, Cisco has taken a stance of supporting and promoting many of these creativity activities on the page, holding contests and interacting Communication Profile Comments on Networking Facebook timeline “wall,” with Academy Facebook page, in pictures, status and activity addition to other Facebook updates over the past months, means – messages, status related information page. updates, comments. with creators in spontaneous and informal ways. kids online 30 Hierarchies of Access Friend lists, likes, comments, Anyone can post to the posts on users’ walls. Networking Academy Wall. Select users have been appointed as moderators with the ability to message members and delete posts. the joan ganz cooney center Networking Residues
  31. 31. key gaps in research Having a broad number of weak ties can also new social settings—and SNF can provide sharing, and socializing around user-created provide kids with opportunities to socialize opportunities for this to happen. content online. Pew reports that “Online sharing of content that teens have created with others of different backgrounds, themselves has remained steady since 2006; race and ethnicity (Tynes, 2007b). Though this most of the research cited above deals with 38% of Internet-using teens say they shared depends on who is within one’s social the social and identity development of teens content online in 2009, similar to the 39% networks, if used in certain ways, online and young adults, not children (excepting who said the same in November 2006” social networking could help promote under- Fields Kafai, in press a; Marsh, 2010). (Lenhart, Purcell, Smith, Zickuhr, 2010, p. standing of people from diverse backgrounds. Though some challenges are similar (such as 23). Despite these statistics, there is reason to developing both strong and weak ties and believe that instances of online sharing are With regard to identity development, many exploring identity), children face significantly nevertheless trending upward. Back in 2002, researchers agree that the same issues that different social and emotional development research by the National School Boards persist in SNF also persist in school, family, issues than their older counterparts. We need Association revealed that only 13 percent of and friendship groups (Giang, Kafai, Fields deeper research on the kinds of relationships students aged 9 to 17 years were involved in Searle, 2012; Subrahmanyam, Smahel children develop online, how they represent sharing or looking at art and stories created Greenfield, 2006). Youth pursue aspects of themselves through different profiles, how by others online. Equally intriguing as a trend their gender, ethnic/racial, and sexual identi- different types of sites afford different devel- is the fact that kids’ gaming activities some- ties online just as they do offline. SNF may opmental opportunities, and how limits on times overlap with the production of digital provide unique opportunities for these language and avatar customization (espe- content—a key, yet often overlooked, way explorations, especially when kids interact cially those sites that limit usage by these in which young users act online. Console in environments where they can shape who younger ages) affect children’s development. games6 targeted at children and teens, such they are and how people perceive them over time (Black, 2008; Fields Kafai, in press b; as Media Molecule’s LittleBigPlanet for the Play and creativity Marsh, 2010). Kids do not simply pick an Sony Playstation 3, Microsoft’s Kodu Game Lab for the Xbox360, and Nintendo’s D.I.Y. identity and stick with it—they play with One key social networking practice that has WarioWare for the NDS, feature tools for their identities as they learn to participate in emerged in recent years involves creating, creating game items, characters, levels, and 31 the joan ganz cooney center However, as we have already articulated, kids online promoting “perspective taking” with regard to
  32. 32. key gaps in research methodological reliance on self-report and contribute much more directly to the game ects, remixing—redesigning or building on overly simplistic user categorization. Thus, than was previously possible. Because these the designs of others (Monroy-Hernandez et the data tend to generalize and omit excep- games are Internet-enabled, players can al., 2011)—and making mods of games (Hayes tions, contexts, non-users, various types of share their finished products with others, Gee, 2010; Grimes, forthcoming). At the digital divides, and nuanced age differences. contributing to vibrant networks or “commu- same time, kids’ newfound roles as cultural Further, given the quantitative nature of the nities” of user-creators. Each of the major producers raises important questions about majority of these data, deviance from the console manufacturers (Microsoft, Sony, copyright and fair use within SNF that feature statistical mean is often conceptualized as and Nintendo) now provide online services “remix” and fan activities, as well as young problematic or risky. These outlying behaviors through which players can download (free people’s knowledge of these processes and tend to get coded as facets of kids’ SNS use in or purchased) content submitted by other the challenges that this may present for the need of regulation and control. Common players, and upload their own creations. various stakeholders involved. For instance, examples include kids lying about their ages kids’ newfound roles as producers introduce (or posing as adults), flaming and flirting, Since children are generally excluded from a number of important challenges to existing cheating and breaking the rules (Ito, Horst, participating directly in public life, it is worth legislation on authorship, intellectual prop- Bittanti Boyd, 2010; Livingstone, 2008a; highlighting the significant opportunities that erty ownership and copyright (Grimes, forth- 2009; Markwick boyd, 2011). Though some kids are given by social networking and other coming; Grimes Shade, 2005; Steeves, 2006; behaviors may indeed be problematic, online forums to collaborate in the creation Turow, 2001). These roles also raise complex without adequate contextualization and of shared cultural texts. Sharing digital arti- new questions about children’s cultural rights in-depth analysis, these behaviors and user facts with others online, especially in online including freedom of expression and access types can too easily be misunderstood or SNF where others are creating similar types to fair use exemptions. misrepresented. Unanticipated uses overlooked users Misrepresentation is common in media of artifacts, affords many educational opportunities, including designing or writing for a coverage of kids and SNF, especially various specific audience (Magnifico, 2010), giving and receiving constructive criticism (Black, 2008), One of the challenges in researching kids’ examples of moral panic-style reports of young creating projects collaboratively (Brennan et online social networking practices is the people’s so-called “deviant” online practices. In 32 the joan ganz cooney center al., 2011), studying the design of others’ proj- kids online mini games that enable non-expert players to
  33. 33. key gaps in research addition to perpetuating harmful myths about kids and online social networking, such media classification also obscures important findings and compelling arguments about the roles that these activities can play in kids’ lives. Some of these activities can be understood as forms of boundary pushing, which play an important function in kids’ development and socialization. As illustrated in the case study of hackers research these more exceptional practices as kids online and “nonconformists” below, it is crucial to part of what kids do online and in their social interactions more generally. Practices that do 33 not fit the pattern of a majority of users can possibilities and limitations of SNF. the joan ganz cooney center be equally, if not more, illuminating about the
  34. 34. key gaps in research case study: whyville Whyville: A science education virtual world Whyville.net is among the very first virtual worlds ever created, not just for kids but for anyone. Since 1999, Whyville has drawn millions of kids into the virtual world, especially tween girls (aged 9-13), one of the highest in the virtual world industry. Though perhaps not as large in population as some Social networks of learning and identity play other virtual worlds for kids, Whyville reports one of the longest average Stats (as of August 2011) science games in order to earn a virtual salary in ‘clams,’ which they can • aunched 1999, free ($5/month priority membership), developed L save up in their bank account (which earns interest) and spend on buying • .9 million members: 30 minutes average login, 6+ months 6 average stay • 8-15 years old, median age • 24% male, 76% female and other goods such as cars and plots of land. The general consensus among Whyvillians is that earning a good salary and thus procuring a large number of clams to spend on face parts or other goods is essential for fully 34 participating in Whyville (Kafai Giang, 2007). Social interactions with others are the highlight of life in Whyville for most players and consist primarily of chatting and ymailing (the Whyville version of email). One of the highlights of Whyville is its strong design culture: all avatar parts are designed, bought, sold, and assembled by kids themselves. In fact, working on one’s avatar takes up nearly a third of every player’s time and energy (Feldon Kafai, 2008), not differing by reported gender, age, or intensity of user status. Designing avatars provides a way to play with one’s representation in a novel social community and learn how looks affect people’s responses (Kafai, Fields Cook, 2010). In the past, working on one’s avatar or designing avatar parts from scratch were some of the few opportunities for design in Whyville, but the joan ganz cooney center • 600,000 youth-created avatar parts, 90 million avatar sales and designing parts for their avatars, projectiles to throw at other players, kids online by Numedeon minutes per login (30+ minutes per login). In Whyville kids play casual
  35. 35. key gaps in research case study: whyville increasingly Numedeon has been adding more opportunities for creative design, including creating airplanes, racing cars (and racing them), a nutrition plan (with affects on one’s appearance if there’s too little calcium or iron), songs, and most recently games. They are also making design more social – in the game design area kids can chat with each other while they are designing and in avatar design Numedeon has created a “Style Studio” where more than Communication Profile Chat bubbles that appear over “City Records” page that avatars’ heads, whisper bubbles shows a user’s avatar, a short only visible to one other person, bio, likes/dislikes, salary, ymail (akin to email) frequency of visits to Whyville and other status symbols 100,000 makeovers are given by Whyvillians to Whyvillians every month. related to achivements. kids online Whyville has also been moving to make science education more massively social. Akin to movements for citizen science, players are encouraged to share data on things such as what makes avatars move faster, observations of species in a virtual ocean, statistics about climate in the virtual world, or virus infection rates (WhyPox). Players can then view graphs amassed from suggest interpretations of these representations. One challenge to hosting these scientific “community events” (Kafai et al, 2007) is that it takes more effort than making a single mini-game that does not need changing over the years; such events require monitoring and new events must be created or re-issued to hold kids’ interest. Still, this combination of the social and the science at computational levels holds great potential for drawing together social networking and scientific reasoning for kids. Recommended reading: Kafai, 2010; Special issue of Games Culture, 1 2, 2010; Fields Kafai, 2009b. Networking Residues Hierarchies of Access Ymails, gifts of money Members who pay $5/month (clamgrams) and face parts, may design and sell face specially designed face parts parts. Some members may for other users. be designated as tour guides and official helpers. the joan ganz cooney center thousands of data points—even seeing their own points on the graph—and 35
  36. 36. expanding our definition of social networking From our review of the literature, it is clear that if we are ever to understand kids’ SNF usage fully and accurately we must start by redefining what we mean by online social networking. We must think outside the box when constructing our questions, our research designs, and our assumptions about what social networking looks like, where it occurs, and even what it entails.
  37. 37. expanding our definition of more inclusive research media In this section, we suggest a classification worlds and game spaces discussed above, types of online youth participation. Ito and her system for examining social networking comparing lists of friends is impossible due to colleagues articulate that the distinction corre- forums (SNF) and their features based on the site’s design, even though social networking sponds to “different genres of youth culture, the type of communication, profiles, and is a key motivation and aspect of participation. social network structure, and modes of networking traces they encourage and the type We therefore propose this classification scheme learning” (p.15). Generic categories of use of Access they allow. We contend that revisiting as a provisional path forward to analyze and (or participation) are particularly relevant to the key characteristics of SNF and exploring compare the various platforms and practices our discussion as they allow for analysis across some of the underlying assumptions about how that are part of a wider range of SNF. platforms, which is an important methodology for challenging the binaries (e.g., offline vs. these characteristics are made manifest is a Our revised model draws on a conceptualiza- online, SNS vs. virtual world) that dominate more inclusive understanding of online social tion of social networking as something that discussions of kids and social networking. networking that relates to younger kids. occurs across contexts, across platforms, We anticipate that as more research on SNF is Our classification system builds off of boyd Despite this breadth, we suggest that there are published and as more and different kinds of and Ellison’s (2007) seminal definition of “social recognizable attributes that delineate social SNF are developed, others will add to, expand, network sites” (SNS) as websites that involve networking “forums” from other websites. SNF tweak, and develop this model further just as we (1) a public or semi-public profile within the can be identified by their forms of communication, are building on boyd and Ellison’s work here. system, (2) a list of other users with whom they personal profiles, networking residues, and hierar- are connected, and (3) the ability to view others’ chies of Access. As a composite, one could say lists of connections (p. 2). While we draw on the that this set of features defines the “genre” of a first and second points in our revised classifica- social networking forum. In using the notion of A defining characteristic of online social tion, we find the third point to be less helpful genre as a framework for mapping the social networking sites is their support of participants’ now because many social networking forums networking terrain, we draw inspiration from communication with one another. This function currently allow users to hide their networks Ito et al. (2010) who applied a similar approach is provided via options such as live chat, voice depending on privacy settings. Further, in many when they identified a key distinction between chat, or even video chat (e.g. via Skype or Google of the sites that kids occupy, like the virtual ”friendship-driven” and “interest-driven” Circles) in addition to posts, comments, and forms of communication 37 the joan ganz cooney center and across diverse forms of online practice. kids online necessary first step for establishing a broader,
  38. 38. expanding our definition of more inclusive research media traditional messages akin to within-site emails. communication, including to whom such Different sites contain different forms of communication is visible (e.g., a live but communication, and this helps characterize the temporary in-room audience as in Whyville site. For instance, in Whyville players can live versus a selective but more permanent set of chat with each other via cartoon-like bubbles individuals on Facebook), as well as how above their heads. They can also “whisper” in different communication forms are utilized the same way via private one-on-one channels for different audiences and diverse purposes. visible only to a single person. This form of The fact that communication within childspecific SNF has become a particular point of like Facebook or Google Circles, in which contention, debate, and regulation makes it public communication is largely recorded in all the more significant to the current discus- the form of posts and comments that last until sion. In many SNF directed toward children, people learn about each other. A profile one deletes them. Future studies of SNF communication is limited by a pre-set selec- usually consists of a name and one or more should document these different forms of tion of words, phrases, or smileys that limit images or text descriptions. Forums differ in children’s conversation in very real ways. the types of profiles available to a user. We What forms of communication are available suggest five initial types of personal profiles and how children and older participants below, noting that some sites may contain utilize these in everyday and innovative ways more than one type. Figure 3: Example of profile page (template) on Togetherville (2010) will be a fruitful area of future study. personal profiles a. Page. One major type of profile is the page, found primarily on now classic social network sites like Facebook and MySpace, Another key element of the SNF genre is the user profile. As a personal representation on Figure 2: Chat Bubbles in Whyville but also on variants like Togetherville and Everloop. On a typical profile page, users an SNF, the profile is the means by which represent themselves with their real name 38 the joan ganz cooney center the kind of communication facilitated on sites kids online communication is qualitatively different from
  39. 39. expanding our definition of more inclusive research media case study: scratch.mit.edu Scratch.mit.edu: a programming media project-sharing site Scratch.mit.edu is a project-sharing social networking site with the aim to provide a social environment that supports kids as media creators through computer programming (Resnick et al., 2009). It is a type of affinity space (Gee, 2004), where kids who share an interest in programming with Scratch post the animations, games, stories, science simulations, and the interactive art they have made in the visual programming environment of Project-based social networks of creativity Scratch. Launched in May 2007 MIT Media Lab, the Scratch site has grown Stats (as of May 2012) uploaded everyday. As for hierarchies of Access, Scratch downloads are • 1.1+ million members (327,000+ project contributors) • 2.5+ million projects: 1500 projects added per day • 8-17 years old, median age 12 • International (available in 44 languages) all comments and projects are public. Community monitors review flagged comments, delete inappropriate ones, and contact users who do not work 39 within the spirit of collaborative, positive feedback on the site. On the Scratch site, activity is primarily project-focused: social networking is largely centered around sharing user-created projects. User profiles are portfolio based, showing individuals’ created projects, “favorite” projects, and links to user-created galleries (collections) of projects and recent “friends” on their home page. While there are small spaces for a thumbnail picture and city/country information, projects dominate the user Profile one gets to know others through the quality of their projects or the comments they leave. Networking residues show up in comments, inclusion in someone’s “favorites,” and descriptive stats listed under a project. Stats include the number of views, number of taggers, “love-its,” remixes, the joan ganz cooney center • 64% male, 36% female free, participation on the site is free and available to people of any age, and kids online • Launched May 2007, free, developed by the MIT Media Lab to more than 780,000 members with nearly 1500 Scratch projects
  40. 40. expanding our definition of more inclusive research media case study: scratch.mit.edu Productions, see Brennan, Valverde, Prempeh, Roque Chung, 2011). There are also a vast number of live role playing groups on Scratch that taggers, 45 people love it, 5 remixes by 4 people, 61 downloads, in 3 focus on creating stories in real time with other users and using proj- galleries” (a project with these stats would be quite popular on the site ects for bios or mini-stories of user-created characters (Roque, with so many views!). Projects with more views, comments, and love-its personal communication). Scratchers also create contests for one may eventually make it to the front page of Scratch through the “Featured another, offering projects, illustrations, love-its, and friending as prizes Projects,” “What the Community is Loving,” “What the Community is (Nickerson Monroy-Hernandez, 2011). There are even self-organizing Viewing,” and other sections. The front page is a prized area for groups of Scratchers who ‘patrol’ the site, looking out for those who Scratchers, because having one’s project on the front page (or linked from leave mean or discouraging comments (“flames”). On the other hand, the front page) means getting more views, more feedback, and more visi- there are also self-organized groups who “troll” the site, purposefully bility. Yet even though the Scratch site is primarily project-based, project being mean and trying to debunk the ethic of the site. The existence of creation and social networking are deeply intertwined and the site allows this latter group on Scratch suggests that not all is according to the for a number of forms of participation. designers’ wishes. A number of groups and websites related to Scratch have grown up Like many social websites, Scratch project creation and commenting is within and around the site including a user-created wiki page that was not equally distributed amongst the users. Only about 29% of Scratch incorporated into the larger site; branch communities focusing on site participants, primarily male users, share projects. Of these, about editing the Scratch programming language, sharing tips, or providing half contribute only to a single project. Some Scratchers may limit media (sprites/characters, backgrounds); an associated site for Scratch themselves to commenting or prefer activities like live role-playing Educators to network and share ideas (ScratchEd.media.mit.edu); and rather than project creation. Further, not all comments left on projects other Scratch networks that have sprung up around the world. Within are positive or constructive. Many youth have been discouraged by the Scratch site many groups (sometimes called “Scratch companies”) comments that their project is not very good or complete compared have grown up that work on project creation together, whether games with others. Brennan (2011) details how Scratchers sometimes post (e.g. Great Bear Productions) or interactive stories (e.g. Green Flower projects to the site whose content is too adult for a site with an average 40 the joan ganz cooney center For instance, the wording underneath a project may list, “639 views 5 kids online downloads, and the user-curated galleries in which the project is located.
  41. 41. expanding our definition of more inclusive research media case study: scratch.mit.edu age of 13 (for instance an animal rights project with graphic images) or create drama in order to get attention (views, love-its and comments). Finally, participation in the Scratch community should not be taken for granted; kids who use Scratch may not initially feel comfortable or interested in posting their projects on the Scratch site because it is perceived as vast and welcoming only of expert contributions (Kafai, Fields Burke, 2010). The Scratch Team is working on new ways to make the site more welcoming to new participants, including Collab Communication Profile Strings of comments on proj- Portfolio page featuring the ects and curated galleries, creator’s own Scratch proj- project notes, forums, even ects, their curated “favorite” within project communication projects of others, a small (projects with embedded thumbnail image and their messages and gifts for others) geographic location kids online Challenges (challenges to make creative projects in groups), a welcome team, and a new version of Scratch that will allow online editing of projects. 41 Brennan, 2011; Brennan, Monroy-Hernández Resnick, 2010; Kafai, Fields Burke, 2010; Monroy-Hernández et al., 2011; Resnick et al., 2009. Hierarchies of Access Comments, Remixes, “Love-its” Everything on Scratch is free and downloads all trace others and public – no comments or Scratchers’ appreciation of projects are hidden. Some shared projects. Also friend lists. experienced members are designated as community moderators. the joan ganz cooney center Recommended reading: Networking Residues
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