How black and Latino youth learn, create, and collaborate online

The Digital Edge examines how the digital and social-media lives of low-income youth, especially youth of color, have evolved amidst rapid social and technological change. While notions of the digital divide between the “technology rich” and the “technology poor” have largely focused on access to new media technologies, the contours of the digital divide have grown increasingly complex. Analyzing data from a year‐long ethnographic study at Freeway High School, the authors investigate how the digital media ecologies and practices of black and Latino youth have adapted as a result of the wider diffusion of the internet all around us–in homes, at school, and in the palm of our hands. Their eager adoption of different technologies forge new possibilities for learning and creating that recognize the collective power of youth: peer networks, inventive uses of technology, and impassioned interests that are remaking the digital world.

Relying on nearly three hundred in-depth interviews with students, teachers, and parents, and hundreds of hours of observation in technology classes and after school programs, The Digital Edge carefully documents some of the emergent challenges for creating a more equitable digital and educational future. Focusing on the complex interactions between race, class, gender, geography and social inequality, the book explores the educational perils and possibilities of the expansion of digital media into the lives and learning environments of low-income youth. Ultimately, the book addresses how schools can support the ability of students to develop the social, technological, and educational skills required to navigate twenty-first century life.


"For anyone interested in an up-close observation of how black, Latinx, immigrant, and low-income students are participating in a complex digital world, along with a critical analysis of the complexities and tensions involved with technology in education, equity, and what it means to prepare all youth to be 'future ready,' I highly recommend The Digital Edge."

Jane Margolis, author of Stuck in the Shallow End: Education, Race, and Computing

"A powerful dispatch from the front lines of the battle to ensure that digital education closes, rather than widens, gaps between communities of color and the rest of the nation. The Digital Edge wrestles with the complex questions of whether the excitement Black and Latino youth have expressed in adopting digital technologies can turn into economic opportunity, and whether our education system is capable of channeling that passion into educational equity."

Ethan Zuckerman, author of Rewire: Digital Cosmopolitans in the Age of Connection


The digital edge is a reference to the institutions, practices, and social relations that make up the daily and mediated lives of black, Latino, and lower-income youth. Our notion of the digital edge is informed by an essential conflict that is woven throughout the chapters in this book: even though a greater diversity of children and teens are using Internet technologies than ever before, not all forms of technology adoption are equal. The digital media practices of black, Latino, and lower-income youth are influenced by broader social and economic currents that give rise to distinct practices, techno-dispositions, and opportunities for participation in the digital world.

In the technology world, “edge” usually connotes something positive and even forward oriented. Being on the “cutting edge” of technology usually references innovation in either the design of technology (e.g., building a new platform) or the creative use of technology (e.g., finding inventive ways to use technology). Our use of the term “edge” is meant to highlight the contradictory contours that mark the digital media lives of black and Latino teens.

For example, the “digital edge” acknowledges the marginalized position that black and Latino teens navigate as they participate in the digital world. Black and Latino youth often live in homes with intermittent access to broadband Internet, confront outdated hardware and software, and learn in poor curriculum classrooms. In this context, “edge” is equated with being on the margins of the tech economy, tech rich households, and high quality schooling.

But the “digital edge” also acknowledges the innovative position that black and Latino teens occupy in the digital world. As we reflected on our fieldwork it became clear that so much of the literature focuses on what we might call the deficit narrative—that is, an almost exclusive  examination of what black, Latino, and lower-income youth do not have in relation to a rapidly evolving tech landscape. While we understand that black and Latino teens are often bereft of key resources, what they do have is an important part of the story too. We call this the asset narrative. For example, black and Latino teens bring a number of assets to their engagement with technology, including innovative techno-dispositions and practices that have led to important modes of digital expression and community like Black Twitter and social media enhanced movements like Black Lives Matter. Media practices like these highlights the degree to which diverse users of digital media expand what is possible in the connected world.