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Adolescents’ New Literacies with and through Mobile Phones


Julie Warner

This book provides a deeper understanding of the phone-based composing practices of youth and their implications for literacy learning. In the United States, smartphone use among teens is nearly universal, yet many youth who are avid digital composers still struggle with formal schooled literacy. The widespread and rapid embrace of smartphones by youth from all income levels has had a substantial impact on the way that young people approach the act of composing, yet to date, little to no work has explored digital photography and text curation through popular apps like Twitter and Instagram and their impact on literacy, including formal schooled literacy. As more schools are moving to Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) models and lifting classroom bans on cellphones, classroom teachers need information about the affordances of phones for formal literacy learning, which this book provides.

This book will also be of interest to those in courses in the fields of education, new literacies, cultural studies/youth culture, literacy studies, communication arts, and anthropology of education/social sciences. This book could be used in a course on online/Internet ethnography. It could also be used in a more general research methods course to illustrate the combination of online and offline data collection. Outside of research methods courses, it could be used in courses on literacies, digital literacies, youth culture, popular culture and media, or mobile learning.

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Chapter 1. Overview of the Study



Overview of the Study


This chapter discusses the methodology used in the study of three adolescents composing with mobile phones, connective ethnography. The chapter begins by providing background on the connective ethnographic orientation to researching mobile literacies, and presents the participants, research context, and methods of data collection that account for mobility in and across online and physical spaces. Finally, the chapter explains the methods of data analysis employed in this study of mobile literacy practices.

Keywords: Connective ethnography, mobility, mobile literacy practices, methodology, research context, adolescents, mobile phones, composing

The data presented in this book comes from a fourteen-month connective ethnographic (Hine, 2000; Leander & McKim, 2003) study of the phone-based digital literacy practices of three adolescents across physical and digital spaces. The data gathered through the process of this research, which involved observing the participants’ interactions in online spaces, speaking at length with them about how they thought about their composing practices, analysis of the texts they composed, and engaging in these spaces as a participant myself, allowed me to build a nuanced understanding of the complex and←1 | 2→ highly inventive communicative practices of youth who compose with mobile phones. This research constitutes the foundation for this book, and the book explores the themes extending from that research context.

The networked and mobile digital media at the heart of this work have problematized existing notions of place and space; they have become unbounded...

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