Close this search box.
September 4, 2007 |

I am super excited to announce that I will be editing a new book series with Ellen Seiter. We just signed the contracts with University of Michigan Press. Ellen has graciously agreed to be the lead editor, but I will be working with her as co-editor of the series. After much agonizing, we have decided to call the series:


The idea is that the series will showcase ethnographic and practice based studies of new media engagement, with a focus on youth practices, but not limited to them. In addition to the topic that is near and dear to our hearts, Ellen and I were united in our enthusiasm for a number of innovations in format.

One is that the books will be short and focused on ethnographic description. We feel that with qualitative studies, it is difficult to publish rich material in a journal-length piece. But often a study does not warrant a full book treatment either. Particularly with a topic like contemporary media, people often do smaller studies of particular online sites, groups, or practices, rather than holistic studies that are characteristic of more traditional ethnography. Often good descriptive work doesn’t get out, particularly in book form, because genre conventions conspire against us. In the area of new media, we feel it is crucial that work gets out quickly, across a wide range of different case studies. Contributors to our series do not feel like they have to write a weighty theoretical tome or holistic analysis of “a culture.” Rather, each book in the series will be contributing to a diverse corpus of qualitative cases that together constitute a descriptive base for understanding a complex and highly distributed set of cultural and social processes.

The other set of innovations that caught our interest were the publications formats that University of Michigan Press is pushing with their new imprint, Digitalculturebooks, of which our series is one component. The imprint is a collaboration between the university press and the library, and is pioneering new publishing strategies and open access. One of their commitments is to publish the books in the imprint simultaneously in print and online, and with creative commons licensing. It has been a real pleasure working with our editor at the press, Alison MacKeen, who is both enthusiastic and forward-looking.

Read on for a more official description of the series.

Technologies of the Imagination: New Media in Everyday Life

Series Editors: Ellen Seiter and Mizuko Ito

This book series will showcase the best ethnographic research today on children and youth’s engagement with digital and convergent media. The series will take an innovative approach to the well-established genre of the ethnographic monograph, adapting it to address the contours of research on contemporary media and technology. By presenting the work as a series of independent but linked books, the monograph series will provide in-depth portraits of different aspects of what it means to be living and growing up in an era saturated with digital media. The research presented will explore practices at the forefront of media change through vivid description analyzed in relation to social, cultural, and historical context. Through detailed case studies of everyday practice, the series titles will provide a grounded perspective on contemporary culture from the point of view of children, youth, and emerging forms of new media practice. Authors will examine topics such as:

• Ways of relating online through social network sites, multiplayer gaming, online forums, chat, mobile phones, and other social modalities. How are social media changing the nature and scope of young people’s family, social and romantic relationships? How does new media displace or enhance television, radio and film as media focused on youth as niche markets?

• Media creation practices enabled by digital production tools, including video creation, game modding, art, music, and photography. * How are digital production tools enabling youth to learn casually through practice what was formerly restricted to the art classroom or the hobbyist? And how is online distribution changing the nature of audience for these works?

• Literacies and practices of writing embedded in popular youth activities such as texting, instant messaging, and blogging. How does this compare to older forms of writing, and what are the advantages and disadvantages of practicing writing in online environments? What is the new role that visual literacies are playing in a convergent media environment?

• Peer-based knowledge economies that are flourishing online based on media sharing sites such as Wikipedia and specialized interests such as media fandom, and gaming. How do online sites support the sharing of knowledge and information? What are the challenges in maintaining standards of credibility and expertise in these new knowledge economies? How could these practices enhance citizenship and participation among youth?

The book series will be distinctive in both format and approach. Our goal is to provide a linked series of monographs that illustrate different dimensions of digital media culture in accessible ways that can challenge the dominance in journalistic accounts that emphasize a crude technological determinism and incite panic among parents and educators. The topic of contemporary media demands a new approach to ethnographic publishing. A single ethnographer cannot expect to write a definitive monograph on a topic such as “youth and new media.” Achieving qualitative breadth and depth on the subject requires reading across multiple and variegated cases studies. This book series will put forth a new model for ethnographic publishing that is keyed to the study of physically dispersed and highly mediated contemporary cultures and practices. The books will be short, averaging 120-150 pages, each focused on laying out a descriptive case in relation to broader societal and cultural contexts. The focus on youth and ethnography entails certain commitments: a focus on the “native” youth point of view, attention to everyday practice, and an effort to capture the nuances of diversity in both identities and material contexts. These commitments mean playing on the strengths of ethnographic approaches while also adapting them to the subject matter at hand.

Taking the point of view of children and youth means taking seriously both their marginal status vis-à-vis adult society as well as their role as active social subjects driving contemporary changes in media and technology. The books will locate children and youth as social subjects whose identities negotiate the complex terrain of gender, race, class and regional/national identities. Following the habits, tastes and competencies of networks from childhood to young adulthood, the books will emphasize the complexities of identity and practice in the contemporary digital and social environment. The emphasis is on how specific communities make meanings in their engagement with convergent media in the context of everyday life, focusing on how media is a site of agency rather than passivity. This also means an interest in why digital media are pleasurable and compelling rather than assuming that they are vehicles for ideological domination, loss of adult authority, or corporate or sexual predatory behaviors. The books in this series will go beyond both celebratory positions or moral panics about children’s uses of digital media by emphasizing how children’s own discourses are constituted within specific historical and cultural structures.

Our second commitment, to pay attention to everyday practice, functions as an antidote to the dominant discourses surrounding digital media, that largely lack grounding in the more mundane and pervasive role that these new technologies take on. Existing treatments in public debate tend to be dominated by quantitative research that gives only a birds-eye view of social change, without getting at questions of culture, meaning, and everyday practice. But digital media practice is embedded in the routines, rituals, and institutions—both public and domestic—of everyday life. An ethnographic approach can describe how broad indicators and trends are embedded and negotiated in these contexts. This perspective also functions as an antidote to the waves of moral panic that often obscure any balanced understanding youth media innovation. The books in this series will focus on portraying both average and exceptional practices, but all grounded in a descriptive frame that renders even exotic practices understandable. This ethnographic approach means that the subject matter is accessible and engaging for a curious layperson, as well as providing rich empirical material for an interdisciplinary scholarly community examining new media.

Finally, we are committed to representing the diversity of forms of youth media engagement across different settings and different forms of affiliation. Some books will focus on domestic and leisure uses while others will closely attend to the dynamics of new media in the school environment and its unexpected challenges to institutional and teacher authority. Our goal is to be international in scope. Each book will look at the experiences of specific youth; together they will provide a picture of the diversity of forms of media engagement and identity. The books will think through the developmental abilities, the kinds of scaffolding, and the economic and technological thresholds for domestic usage that are required to reap the greatest benefits from new media while also considering those forces that might impede the realization of these very benefits.

The editors are committed to publishing work that is rigorous in its employment of ethnographic methods as a distinctive research process developed within anthropology and sociology involving extended periods of participant observation and emphasizing descriptive writing both of field notes and of the final ethnography. The editors will solicit work that uses a creative combination of methods, including observation, diary, analysis of digital portfolios, inventories of the dominant technologies used by youth and informal conversations–as well as interviews—to produce more nuanced understandings of the current landscape of digital media in the lives of youth. We will showcase those designs that promise to expanding the repertoire and intensity of qualitative methods for studying contemporary practices and cultures that are often atomized, mediated, and technologically enabled.