Less Advantaged Teens, Ethnicity,
and Digital and Mobile Media
Respect, Restriction, and Reversal
WHEN MIKE FIRST ENTERED the computer lab at Denver High School, he wasn’t sure what to expect. He was taking my undergraduate class Critical Approaches to Digital Media, and he had been asked to serve as a volunteer tutor who would work with students who did not have access to the Internet in their homes. An experienced Web and game designer, Mike had thought that he would walk around the room to help various students with their projects. To begin, he sat down next to fifteen-year-old Asad and suggested that he start by titling his project “My Digital Profile.” As Mike relates, “He typed ‘My dihgitel profil’ onto the screen. I never ended up getting out of my chair to help the other students.”1
Mike learned that Asad had grown up in Somalia and had been relocated to Denver several years ago when he and his brother sought to escape the violence in his homeland. The two young Somalis had arrived in Denver with little money and limited language skills. After participating in an English Language Acquisition program at a local high school, Asad had been integrated into the school’s curriculum and is currently completing his degree, with hopes of continuing his education in college. Asad and his brother share a mobile phone, and Asad likes to use his school’s computers to locate and read online news from his hometown. And although Mike was impressed with how quickly Asad learned basic digital skills, we both wondered about the daunting gap that separated Asad’s opportunities for developing those skills from Mike’s own opportunities.
This chapter focuses on the experiences of young people like Asad who encounter limitations in relation to the digital and mobile media environment. Like the young people in chapter 4, they discuss the ways that they