Guest Post: Four Insights for Youth Marketers from DML 2010
- February 26th, 2010
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Today’s Ypulse Guest Post comes from Derek Baird, a 2010 Ypulse Youth Marketing Mashup advisory board member, who reports back from The Digital Media and Learning Conference in San Diego. If you work in youth media or marketing and have an idea for a Ypulse Guest Post, email me!
Four Insights for Youth Marketers from DML 2010
Last week scholars and practitioners from the emerging field of digital media and learning gathered on the campus of the University of California at San Diego, in the shadow of a library named after the legendary children’s author Theodor “Dr. Seuss” Geisel, for the inaugural Digital Media and Learning Conference.
During the two day conference, chaired by Dr. Henry Jenkins, leading scholars and practitioners delved deep into the world of digital media, participatory learning and youth.
While the primary focus was on utilizing digital technologies in both formal and informal learning environments, there were several themes that also hold relevance for the youth marketing and media community.
Insight 1: The Myth of the Digital Native
“If we over-estimate their skills we underestimate the support they need and misunderstand their practices.” – Dr. Sonia Livingstone
Over the last decade there has been lots of talk, in both the press and educational circles, about the technological prowess of “digital natives.” We’ve heard a lot about what’s exciting in educational technology, but the reality is that teachers still see a lot of kids struggling to use technology.
During her keynote Dr. Sonia Livingstone (London School of Economics) shared the following examples from her research and interviews with both parents and kids on the difficulties “digital natives” face using technology:
- Example: Going to a Web site—can take a half hour, involve parents & most give up.
- Example: Parents thought their child was very savvy, but something about the style of her use didn’t reveal her struggles. “Megan” is confident, but one can observe her many struggles while she uses technology.
- Example: 17-year-old, quoted: “With books it’s a lot easier to research. I can’t really use the internet for studying.” Another, “Every time I try to look for something, I can never find it. It keeps coming up with things that are completely irrelevant.”
- Example: Teens often didn’t know how to change their privacy settings, unsure about what to click to manage this task. (Nervousness about unintended consequences: stranger danger, parental anxiety, viruses, crashed computers, unwanted advertising, etc.)
When it comes to youth and digital media we tend to be conservative in the type of content we give young people and far more aggressive when approaching them with digital media tools. It’s important to remember that just because we include digital media doesn’t mean youth know how to make meaning or engage with these technologies.
Insight 2: We Need to Look in the Mirror
“When it comes to kids and participatory media, there are still lots of difficult and unanswered questions. Online opportunities, but also risks—often go hand in hand.” –Dr. Sonia Livingstone
Everyone that is working in the youth media space—educators, marketers, youth strategists, researchers—need to be looking at what claims are being made about kids and digital media and asking if they are being sufficiently well-documented. Have we examined the contrary claims and the evidence that doesn’t fit? Have we made too many general claims that we apply to all youth? Have we “exoticized” Millennials?
During her panel discussion Margaret Weigel (Harvard University) talked about research conducted by Project Zero which found that many teachers are using new media the same way they used old media. How many youth marketers are doing the same thing?
In many ways, it has become an arms race to keep up with what technology, trends and social networks kids are interested in. Whether it’s digital learning or digital marketing, it’s vital that we take a broader view—away from the three screens—on the authentic ways youth use technology.
Insight 3: Urban Youth Are Totally Wired
“If we ask them [minority youth] if they use and access digital media – it assumes they are not connected for a certain period of the day. They are in fact using social media “more” than their white counterparts.” –S. Craig Watkins
For most of the 1990s the conversation around minority youth and technology was centered on the “digital divide.” This conversation was primarily focused on hardware issues and connection to the Internet. However, as S. Craig Watkins points out, the digital divide is not just about access, it is “also about social and cultural skills in human networks to enable proper participation.”
In his keynote, S. Craig Watkins (University of Texas at Austin) presented a number of emergent patterns about African-American and Latino youth usage and participation in the digital media space:
- Usage Is Mobile: Mobile phones are emerging as the preferred platform among minority youth. 92% of 1500 minority youth surveyed in 6 major urban markets own a mobile phone;
- Usage Is Peer And Interest Driven: They are “living and learning” with new media, engaging their peers, peer interaction, peer informed spaces that drive their usage and interest driven genres (e.g., hip hop);
- Digital Media Is The New Town Square: “Back in the day” hip hop youth were always writing stories, carrying pens and papers; documenting their stories about their life in poems and hip hop. Today, the digital landscape is the new town square and they go online to engage with their community, and engage in a “stunning” critique about the world around them;
- Use Digital Media As A Space Of Opportunity: Messaging & hanging around in digital media is NOT just wasting time, but they are creating gateways for them to create opportunities and engage with what they are love and passionate about (e.g., a young girl who used hip hop to connect with hip hop artists, but also to connect with her friends and record/tweet about her own hip hop).
Insight 4: Don’t Be Afraid to Collaborate
“The key promise of a more participatory culture is diversity, but it’s a challenge because we are not ready to listen to all the voices.” – Dr. Henry Jenkins
Henry Jenkins’ closing keynote called on the DML community to be more proactive about asking questions, challenging approaches and creating an inclusive environment. He also called on the DML community to invite people not normally included in our conversations to work together on building the future landscape of digital media and learning.
He asked us to “work with someone at this conference you haven’t worked with before—tell us about it when you come back for the second DML conference.” Most importantly, he urged everyone to not “throw away the business cards” they collected during the conference.
As we prepare for the 2010 Ypulse Mashup, let’s accept Dr. Jenkins’ challenge to integrate more collaboration into our community and industry gatherings. We shouldn’t be afraid to collaborate, ask the unanswered and difficult questions. Let’s work together, listen to divergent voices and not throw away those business cards when we leave San Francisco.
Derek is a technologist specializing in the development, planning, implementation and execution of multi-platform (web, TV & mobile) digital media & content experiences focused on the educational media (edutainment), entertainment and digital kid/youth media markets. As a consultant, he advises clients in both the U.S. and international markets. His blog, Barking Robot, has been syndicated in several leading publications and he has published articles in both academic peer reviewed & online industry journals.