Skip navigation

Mizuko Ito

Mizuko Ito is a cultural anthropologist who studies new media use, particularly among young people, in Japan and the United States, and a Professor in Residence at the University of California Humanities Research Institute.

Titles by This Author

Kids Living and Learning with New Media

Conventional wisdom about young people’s use of digital technology often equates generational identity with technology identity: today’s teens seem constantly plugged in to video games, social networking sites, and text messaging. Yet there is little actual research that investigates the intricate dynamics of youths’ social and recreational use of digital media. Hanging Out, Messing Around, and Geeking Out fills this gap, reporting on an ambitious three-year ethnographic investigation into how young people are living and learning with new media in varied settings—at home, in after-school programs, and in online spaces.

Integrating twenty-three case studies—which include Harry Potter podcasting, video-game playing, music sharing, and online romantic breakups—in a unique collaborative authorship style, Hanging Out, Messing Around, and Geeking Out is distinctive for its combination of in-depth description of specific group dynamics with conceptual analysis.

A Cultural History of Children's Software

Today, computers are part of kids’ everyday lives, used both for play and for learning. We envy children’s natural affinity for computers, the ease with which they click in and out of digital worlds. Thirty years ago, however, the computer belonged almost exclusively to business, the military, and academia. In Engineering Play, Mizuko Ito describes the transformation of the computer from a tool associated with adults and work to one linked to children, learning, and play. Ito gives an account of a pivotal period in the 1980s and 1990s, which saw the rise of a new category of consumer software designed specifically for elementary school–aged children. “Edutainment” software sought to blend various educational philosophies with interactive gaming and entertainment, and included such titles as Number Munchers, Oregon Trail, KidPix, and Where in the World Is Carmen Sandiego?.

The children’s software boom (and the bust that followed), says Ito, can be seen as a microcosm of the negotiations surrounding new technology, children, and education. The story she tells is both a testimonial to the transformative power of innovation and a cautionary tale about its limitations.

Summary of Findings from the Digital Youth Project

This report summarizes the results of an ambitious three-year ethnographic study, funded by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, into how young people are living and learning with new media in varied settings—at home, in after school programs, and in online spaces. It offers a condensed version of a longer treatment provided in the book Hanging Out, Messing Around, and Geeking Out (MIT Press, 2009). The authors present empirical data on new media in the lives of American youth in order to reflect upon the relationship between new media and learning. In one of the largest qualitative and ethnographic studies of American youth culture, the authors view the relationship of youth and new media not simply in terms of technology trends but situated within the broader structural conditions of childhood and the negotiations with adults that frame the experience of youth in the United States.The book that this report summarizes was written as a collaborative effort by members of the Digital Youth Project, a three-year research effort funded by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation and conducted at the University of California, Berkeley, and the University of Southern California.John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Reports on Digital Media and Learning

Titles by This Editor

Mobile Phones in Japanese Life

The Japanese term for mobile phone, keitai (roughly translated as "something you carry with you"), evokes not technical capability or freedom of movement but intimacy and portability, defining a personal accessory that allows constant social connection. Japan's enthusiastic engagement with mobile technology has become -- along with anime, manga, and sushi -- part of its trendsetting popular culture. Personal, Portable, Pedestrian, the first book-length English-language treatment of mobile communication use in Japan, covers the transformation of keitai from business tool to personal device for communication and play.The essays in this groundbreaking collection document the emergence, incorporation, and domestication of mobile communications in a wide range of social practices and institutions. The book first considers the social, cultural, and historical context of keitai development, including its beginnings in youth pager use in the early 1990s. It then discusses the virtually seamless integration of keitai use into everyday life, contrasting it to the more escapist character of Internet use on the PC. Other essays suggest that the use of mobile communication reinforces ties between close friends and family, producing "tele-cocooning" by tight-knit social groups. The book also discusses mobile phone manners and examines keitai use by copier technicians, multitasking housewives, and school children. Personal, Portable, Pedestrian describes a mobile universe in which networked relations are a pervasive and persistent fixture of everyday life.