The Class:
Living and Learning in the Digital Age

Summary

Based upon fieldwork at an ordinary London school, The Class examines young people’s experiences of growing up and learning in a digital world. In this original and engaging study, Sonia Livingstone and Julian Sefton-Green explore youth values, teenagers’ perspectives on their futures, and their tactics for facing the opportunities and challenges that lie ahead. The authors follow the students as they move across their different social worlds — in school, at home, and with their friends, engaging in a range of activities from video games to drama clubs and music lessons. By portraying the texture of the students’ everyday lives, The Class seeks to understand how the structures of social class and cultural capital shape the development of personal interests, relationships and autonomy. Providing insights into how young people’s social, digital, and learning networks enable or disempower them, Livingstone and Sefton-Green reveal that the experience of disconnections and blocked pathways is often more common than that of connections and new opportunities.

This book is part of the Connected Youth and Digital Futures series that explores young people’s day-to-day lives and futures. The volumes consider changes at the intersection of civil and political reform, transformations in employment and education, and the growing presence of digital technologies in all aspects of social, cultural and political life. The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation’s Digital Media and Learning (DML) Initiative has supported two research networks that have helped launch this series: the Youth and Participatory Politics Research Network and the Connected Learning Research Network. The DML Initiative and the DML Research Hub at the University of California, Irvine, support production and open access for this series, published by New York University Press.

Interview

Praise

  In a richly textured account, The Class unpacks many of the grand claims made in public discourse about the perceived impact — positive and negative — of new media technologies on young people’s lives and future prospects. Intellectually engaging, lucidly written, and emotionally engrossing, The Class is required reading for policy makers, parents, and teachers alike.  

Kirsten Drotner, co-editor of Informal Learning and Digital Media

  An exemplary ethnography whose holistic engagement with children at home as well as at school allow for judicious appraisals of what actually matters, motivates, and has consequences for their lives. By fully respecting the children’s attempts to control the impact of digital technologies, negotiate their relationships and internalise but tame institutional pressures, this book gives us precisely the kind of empathetic sense of the child that we need to retain as adults.  

Daniel Miller, author of Social Media in an English Village

  One of the richest investigations to date of young people across the major sites of their lives — school, family, and among their peers — The Class will be a distinctive contribution to media and youth studies. Displaying an impressive breadth of knowledge, the authors showcase lively ethnographic vignettes to draw significant, convincing, and exciting insights.  

Dorothy Holland, co-author of Identity and Agency in Cultural Worlds

Excerpt