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October 19, 2006 |

I am just back from New York where the MacArthur Foundation announced that they will be committing $50 million over the next five years to the field of digital media and learning. My grant with Peter Lyman and Michael Carter was one of MacArthur’s first exploratory grants in this area. We are almost mid-way through our ethnographic study of what young people are doing with digital technology. It’s very exciting to see the foundation making this commitment to ongoing support of this area. I’m also looking forward to working with a growing number of complementary projects that we hope will make our ethnographic work relevant in a wide variety of areas including quantitative studies, media literacy programs, and game design.

In the announcement today, I was particularly heartened by what Jonathan Fanton, president of the MacArthur Foundation, had to say about some of the goals of this expanded grant making in this area. He noted the priorities we have already been pursuing to look at learning both inside and outside of the classroom, and at activities that are widely distributed in youth culture. But he also mentioned that the foundation will be looking to support international projects in this arena, something that has not been an element of this initiative thus far. My own sense, particularly because I do transnational research between Japan and the US, is that this international dimension is absolutely critical understanding how digital technologies are transforming young people’s cultural worlds. The distinctiveness of uses in different national contexts, as well as the ways in which digital technology is enabling culture flows that exceed national boundaries is something we really need to understand.

The MacArthur web site on this new initiative is here and the blog is here. The webcast from today’s event is here.