The 2019 Connected Learning Summit, held at the University of California, Irvine  (Oct. 2, 2019 Pre-Conference – Oct. 3-5, 2019) featured some provocative talks, inspiring attendees to consider what role they can play in addressing some of the big issues society is facing in a digital world and how civic engagement fits in.

Henry Jenkins, S. Craig Watkins, Mizuko Ito and Katie Salen joined for a discussion about digital youth in the talk, “Digital Diversity: How Social, Cultural and Real Life Circumstances Shape Youth Digital Media Practices.”  The Digital Diversity talk covered a myriad of topics about digital youth and, unsurprisingly, concerns about screen time and what should be done about it became the focus of the discussion.

While we often think of “digital youth” as sharing common experiences, research is increasingly highlighting the diversity of youth experiences online. Understanding the differences between youth digital participation is as important as understanding how digital technologies have shaped a generation. This emphasis on diversity and difference is particularly important given trends towards political polarization, the proliferation of platforms and affinity networks, and with higher-cost and higher-bandwidth forms of digital engagement such as virtual reality, augmented reality, and 5G networks on the horizon. A broader palette of forms of online participation and affiliation offer new avenues for validating interests and identities for diverse youth. At the same time, these trends open up risks of new kinds of digital participation gaps, echo chambers, and political polarization. This symposium will draw highlight research from two recent books from the NYU Press “Connected Youth and Digital Futures” series that showcase digital diversity: Affinity Online How Connection and Shared Interest Fuel Learning and The Digital Edge: How Black and Latino Youth Navigate Digital Inequality to explore the varied cultural, social, and real life circumstances inflecting the digital practices of youth. How do social, familial, economic, cultural, political factors shape youth digital participation, for example? How do diverse forms of online affiliation and participation support youth agency, voice, and learning?