An introduction: Or, a young lady Ph.D. student’s digital primer

I was the sort of child who often sheepishly began her sporadic diary entries, “Dear Diary, Sorry I haven’t written in a while…”  While I may not have been able to commit to the physically-bound/locked diary format, hopefully I can maintain this digitally-bound/open blog… especially considering that it’s for school credit.

This summer 2011, as part of my doctoral studies at the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism, I’ll be doing a directed reading (aka COMM 590) supervised by Prof. Anne Balsamo, and blogging about said readings.  I have been greatly inspired by my work thus far at Annenberg with my academic advisor, Prof. Henry Jenkins and in particular his New Media Literacies class which I took this past spring semester.  In addition, I have to thank Karen Brennan, a Ph.D. student with the MIT Media Lab who I met this past March at DML, for sharing her rich lists of resources on children, community building, and computing with me.

The theme of my directed reading is “Playing with Identity, Embodiment, and Virtuality: Children’s Bonding with Technology.”  I’ve entitled this blog teething on tech because young children literally and figuratively teethe on technology.  Literally, children often try to know objects better by sticking them in their mouths (even iPods).  Figuratively, young children acquire and develop socially, emotionally, and physically through the daily micro-experiments they undertake and the trial and error they experience “cutting their teeth” on technologies.  By “technologies,” I don’t necessarily mean the battery-operated kind, but rather, those systems – digital and analog – that extend beyond that which we can do as humans alone.  For example, the chunky primary color crayon children start with is an assistive technology in building proficiency towards mastering the slimmer crayons in the cool 64-color boxes. (Speaking of which, prepare to have your mind rocked by “Crayon Physics Deluxe.”)

Below is a description of the topic, plan of study, final-ish deliverable (Is a blog, even one that is temporally-bound, ever considered “delivered”?), and a list of references.  Hopefully, over the course of the summer, I’ll make some astute observations, capture the interplay between my summer travels (Tel Aviv!  NYC!  Boston!  Philly!) and readings, and engage some of you on “the Internets” in the research that interests me.



Topic Description
These readings focus on the context of children’s object play with analog and digital technologies from both sociological and psychological perspectives. How do children negotiate their identity in relation to and with technologies? In terms of embodiment/virtuality, how are these understandings of self and belonging enacted?

Study Plan
Starting with the section on identity, and moving through embodiment/virtuality, I will follow the progression through the readings in the numerical order as indicated.

I will post a thoughtful blog post in the form of a short essay at least per piece of reading material. Posts will incorporate the following elements: 1) synthesis of key aspects of the piece, 2) integration with relevant and timely multimodal texts (e.g. news article, photographs, YouTube clips), and 3) reflection on how the piece(s) relates to prior readings and posts.



(1) Bourdieu, P. (1990). The logic of practice (R. Nice, Trans.). Cambridge: Polity Press. (Original work published in 1980).

(3) Csikszentmihalyi, M. (1981). The meaning of things: Domestic symbols and the self. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

(2) de Certeau, M. (1984). The practice of everyday life. Berkeley: University of California Press.

(4) Sutton-Smith, B.(2001). The ambiguity of play. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

(6) Turkle, S. (1995). Life on the screen: Identity in the age of the Internet. New York:
Simon & Schuster.

(6) Turkle, S. (2008). Always-on/Always-on-you: The teathered self. In J. E. Katz (Ed.), Handbook of mobile communication studies. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

(6) Turkle, S. (2010). Object lessons. In M. M. Suárez-Orozco and C. Sattin-Bajaj (Eds.),
Educating the whole child for the whole world. New York: New York University Press.

(6) Turkle, S. (Ed.) (2007). Evocative objects: Things we think with. Cambridge: MIT Press.

(5) Winnicott, D.W. (1971). Playing and reality. London: Tavistock Publications.


(4) Croissant, J. (1998). Growing up cyborg: Developmental stories for postmodern children. In R. Davis-Floyd and J. Dumit (Eds.), Cyborg babies: From techno-sex to techno-tots. London: Routledge.

(2) Haraway, D. (1991). A cyborg manifesto: Science, technology, and socialist-feminism in the late twentieth century. In Simians, Cyborgs and Women: The Reinvention of Nature (pp. 149-181). New York: Routledge.

(1) Marvin, C. (1990). When old technologies were new. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

(3) Stephenson, N. (1995). The diamond age: Or, a young lady’s illustrated primer. New York: Bantam.

(5) Turkle, S. (1998). Playing with artificial life. In R. Davis-Floyd and J. Dumit (Eds.), Cyborg babies: From techno-sex to techno-tots. London: Routledge.

(5) Turkle, S. (2011). Alone together: Why we expect more from technology and less from each other. New York: Basic Books.

2 responses to “An introduction: Or, a young lady Ph.D. student’s digital primer

  1. We were just talking yesterday about how people name their GPS in their cars and about how children just assume a GPS has a name, like Jessica. But I don’t think people name a GPS if it is in your phone—maybe because it is part of a larger package and less of an “individual”?

    • I would think customization has a lot to do with it: being able to choose if the GPS has a man or a woman’s voice, if it has an accent that is supposed to be representative of a country, even choosing where in the car it “lives.” There’s something about the fact that you have to look at the object in the car – it gets a seat, but the GPS on a phone is mostly unseen. Just conjectures, but I know in my family, “naming” the GPS (Dolores, as in, she caused us “dolor” or Spanish for pain) was itself a family activity.

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