I’m delighted to announce the publication of a new Tenth Anniversary edition of Hanging Out, Messing Around, and Geeking Out: Kids Living and Learning with New Media — which came to be known by its acronym, HOMAGO. The book reports on the findings of the Digital Youth Study, which still retains its status as the largest ethnographic study of youth online life in the U.S. Involving 28 researchers, the purpose of the study was to investigate how young people’s learning and social life was changing through their engagement with social media, digital games, and mobile technology.
The tenth anniversary edition of HOMAGO includes a new introduction I co-authored with Heather Horst, reflecting on the intervening decade. We reflect on conducting fieldwork in 2006:
MySpace was the dominant social network platform, niche groups congregated on LiveJournal, and YouTube was an upstart. Adults struggled to understand the appeal of social and mobile media. The new millennium was just beginning to usher in sweeping transformations in how people communicate, organize, and express themselves. The teens in our research, now known as Millennials, continue to be the poster children for these changes.
The initial report from our study was released in 2008, and the book in 2009.
Our hope was to describe the online world from a teen perspective, demystify what was attractive about new media, and calm adult fears. We emphasized the value that young people placed on online participation, and the informal learning flourishing in digital peer networks. Our report was also a teaser for ways that this informal learning and peer connection could be harnessed for education, but we were still at the very early stages of grasping these implications.
At the time HOMAGO was originally published, we did not anticipate how quickly adults, commercial media, and political interests would overtake what was then a youth-dominated digital culture. Nor did we anticipate the explosive growth of the tech sector which had still not fully recovered from the dot-com bubble. Still, many of the social and cultural dynamics we identified in HOMAGO not only stood the test of time, but went mainstream, spreading to new age groups, cultures, and geographies. And even as adults have taken to the digital world, they still complain and fret about teenagers’ use of technology, just as they did in 2006.
In the new introduction, we consider the continued relevance of HOMAGO, while also acknowledging unanticipated developments in digital culture since then. Closer to home for the Connected Learning Alliance, we also reflect on the unexpected and heartening ways that HOMAGO was taken up by educators.
In 2009, the same year that HOMAGO was published, The Chicago Public Library unveiled YOUmedia, a teen digital creation space in the flagship Harold Washington Library. Nichole Pinkard and Drew Davidson collaborated with library leadership to design YOUmedia to mirror the genres of participation of hanging out, messing around, and geeking out. In the years since then, YOUmedia spaces have spread to libraries and museums across the country, and system-wide in Chicago. By 2014, even the New York Times was describing teen library spaces as “homago space.”
Last month, in tandem with the release of the new edition of HOMAGO, YOUmedia Chicago also celebrated its tenth anniversary with a block party attended by many who have been fellow travellers with HOMAGO. Nichole Pinkard (founder of Digital Youth Network), Taylor Bayless (founding librarian at YOUmedia), and Amy Eshleman (YOUmedia co-founder and now Chicago’s First Lady), reflect on the tenth anniversary in a WGN radio podcast about YOUmedia. In the midst of a decade of tumultuous digital transformation, the work of educators and designers who have taken up some of our learnings from HOMAGO stand out as the legacy I am most proud of.