Subjects

Mimi Ito

Professor in Residence, Department of Anthropology and Department of Informatics at the University of California, Irvine

International expert on mobile technologies & new digital media in everyday life.

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Biography

Mimi Ito is an international expert on how people use mobile technologies and new digital media in their everyday lives. A cultural anthropologist of technology use, she also is a leading authority on how social network technologies are shaping society.

Dr. Ito has been named the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation Chair in Digital Media and Learning. Created in 2009 from an endowment fund originally established by the MacArthur Foundation at the University of California, Berkeley, the digital media and learning initiative aims to determine how digital media are changing the way young people learn, play, socialize and participate in civic life.

Mimi co-led the Digital Youth Project, a landmark study of the ways youth use new media funded by the MacArthur Foundation. The study explores how kids engage with and play with new media in their everyday lives and how digital technologies are changing the way young people learn, play, socialize and participate in civic life. She co-authored the book based on the study, Hanging Out, Messing Around, and Geeking Out: Kids Living and Learning with New Media.

Mimi is an expert on the content of children’s educational games and software, their production, distribution, and marketing, and how children use them in play. She has researched a wide range of other digitally-augmented social practices, including online gaming and social communities.

She also specializes in amateur culture production, Do-It-Yourself (DIY) media cultures, and peer-to-peer learning. She is one of the organizers of 24/7: A DIY Video Summit, that showcases current developments in digital video production, focusing on amateur production, remix, and Internet distribution. The Summit was a project of the University of Southern California's Institute for Multimedia Literacy, School of Cinematic Arts.

Mimi recently co-edited a book on Otaku culture titled Fandom Unbound: Otaku Culture in a Connected World. She also wrote Engineering Play: A Cultural History of Children’s Software and co-edited Personal, Portable, Pedestrian: Mobile Phones in Japanese Life and the book series Technologies of the Imagination: New Media In Everyday Life.

Mizuko Ito is a Professor in Residence, Department of Anthropology and Department of Informatics at the University of California, Irvine. She has two doctorates from Stanford University, in education and anthropology. Mimi is a cultural anthropologist.

She has worked at the Institute for Research and Learning, Xerox PARC, Tokyo University, the National Institute for Educational Research in Japan, and Apple Computer.

In addition to the MacArthur Foundation, Mimi Ito has received research grants and fellowships from the National Science Foundation, the Mellon Foundation, the Spencer Foundation, the Vodafone Group Foundation, NTT DoCoMo, the Abe Fellowship, Phi Beta Kappa Northern California Association, and the Reischauer Institute.

Credentials

  • Professor in Residence, Department of Anthropology and Department of Informatics at the University of California, Irvine
  • MacArthur foundation Chair in Digital Media and Learning, 2010
  • Research director of the Digital Media and Learning Research Hub at the system-wide University of California Humanities Research Institute
  • Director, Champon.org
  • Co-editor, Personal, Portable, Pedestrian: Mobile Phones in Japanese Life
  • Co-editor, Technologies of the Imagination: New Media In Everyday Life
  • Ph.D.s from Stanford University in education and anthropology

Books

Fandom Unbound

Mizuko Ito, Daisuke Okabe, and Izumi Tsuji (Editors)

In recent years, otaku culture has emerged as one of Japan’s major cultural exports and as a genuinely transnational phenomenon. This timely volume investigates how this once marginalized popular culture has come to play a major role in Japan’s identity at home and abroad. In the American context, the word otaku is best translated as "geek" — an ardent fan with highly specialized knowledge and interests. But it is associated especially with fans of specific Japan-based cultural genres, including anime, manga, and video games. Most important of all, as this collection shows, is the way otaku culture represents a newly participatory fan culture in which fans not only organize around niche interests but produce and distribute their own media content. In this collection of essays, Japanese and American scholars offer richly detailed descriptions of how this once stigmatized Japanese youth culture created its own alternative markets and cultural products such as fan fiction, comics, costumes, and remixes, becoming a major international force that can challenge the dominance of commercial media. By exploring the rich variety of otaku culture from multiple perspectives, this groundbreaking collection provides fascinating insights into the present and future of cultural production and distribution in the digital age.

Yale University Press (February 28, 2012)

Hanging Out, Messing Around, and Geeking Out

Mimi Ito

This book was written as a collaborative effort by members of the Digital Youth Project, a three-year research effort funded by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation and conducted at the University of California, Berkeley, and the University of Southern California.

Conventional wisdom about young people's use of digital technology often equates generational identity with technology identity: today's teens seem constantly plugged in to video games, social networks sites, and text messaging. Yet there is little actual research that investigates the intricate dynamics of youth's social and recreational use of digital media. Hanging Out, Messing Around, and Geeking Out fills this gap, reporting on an ambitious three-year ethnographic investigation into how young people are living and learning with new media in varied settings — at home, in after school programs, and in online spaces. By focusing on media practices in the everyday contexts of family and peer interaction, the book views the relationship of youth and new media not simply in terms of technology trends but situated within the broader structural conditions of childhood and the negotiations with adults that frame the experience of youth in the United States.

Integrating twenty-three different case studies — which include Harry Potter podcasting, video-game playing, music-sharing, and online romantic breakups — in a unique collaborative authorship style, Hanging Out, Messing Around, and Geeking Out is distinctive for its combination of in-depth description of specific group dynamics with conceptual analysis.

The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation Series on Digital Media and Learning

The MIT Press (Nov 2009)

Engineering Play

A Cultural History of Children's Software

Mimi Ito

Today, computers are part of kids' everyday lives, used both for play and for learning. We envy children's natural affinity for computers, the ease with which they click in and out of digital worlds. Thirty years ago, however, the computer belonged almost exclusively to business, the military, and academia. In Engineering Play, Mizuko Ito describes the transformation of the computer from a tool associated with adults and work to one linked to children, learning, and play. Ito gives an account of a pivotal period in the 1980s and 1990s, which saw the rise of a new category of consumer software designed specifically for elementary school aged children. "Edutainment" software sought to blend various educational philosophies with interactive gaming and entertainment, and included such titles as Number Munchers, Oregon Trail, KidPix, and Where in the World is Carmen San Diego?.

Drawing from observations of kids' play, interviews with software developers, and advertising and industry materials, Ito identifies three educational philosophies and genres in children's software that connect players in software production, distribution, and consumption: instruction, focused on transmission of academic content; exploration, tied to open-ended play; and construction, aimed at empowering young users to create and manipulate digital media.

The children's software boom (and the bust that followed), says Ito, can be seen as a microcosm of the negotiations surrounding new technology, children, and education. The story she tells is both a testimonial to the transformative power of innovation and a cautionary tale about its limitations.

The MIT Press (Oct 2009)

Living and Learning with New Media

Mimi Ito

Summary of Findings from the Digital Youth Project

This report summarizes the results of an ambitious three-year ethnographic study, funded by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, into how young people are living and learning with new media in varied settings — at home, in after school programs, and in online spaces. It offers a condensed version of a longer treatment provided in the book Hanging Out, Messing Around, and Geeking Out (MIT Press, 2009). The authors present empirical data on new media in the lives of American youth in order to reflect upon the relationship between new media and learning. In one of the largest qualitative and ethnographic studies of American youth culture, the authors view the relationship of youth and new media not simply in terms of technology trends but situated within the broader structural conditions of childhood and the negotiations with adults that frame the experience of youth in the United States.

The book that this report summarizes was written as a collaborative effort by members of the Digital Youth Project, a three-year research effort funded by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation and conducted at the University of California, Berkeley, and the University of Southern California.

The MIT Press (June 2009)

Personal, Portable, Pedestrian

Mizuko Ito, Daisuke Okabe and Misa Matsuda (Editors)

The Japanese term for mobile phone, keitai (roughly translated as "something you carry with you"), evokes not technical capability or freedom of movement but intimacy and portability, defining a personal accessory that allows constant social connection. Japan's enthusiastic engagement with mobile technology has become — along with anime, manga, and sushi — part of its trendsetting popular culture. Personal, Portable, Pedestrian, the first book-length English-language treatment of mobile communication use in Japan, covers the transformation of keitai from business tool to personal device for communication and play.

The essays in this groundbreaking collection document the emergence, incorporation, and domestication of mobile communications in a wide range of social practices and institutions. The book first considers the social, cultural, and historical context of keitai development, including its beginnings in youth pager use in the early 1990s. It then discusses the virtually seamless integration of keitai use into everyday life, contrasting it to the more escapist character of Internet use on the PC. Other essays suggest that the use of mobile communication reinforces ties between close friends and family, producing "tele-cocooning" by tight-knit social groups. The book also discusses mobile phone manners and examines keitai use by copier technicians, multitasking housewives, and school children. Personal, Portable, Pedestrian describes a mobile universe in which networked relations are a pervasive and persistent fixture of everyday life.

The MIT Press (Oct 2006)

Topics

Mimi tailors each presentation to the needs of her audience and is not limited to the topics we have listed below. These are subjects that have proven valuable to customers in the past and are meant only to suggest her range and interests. Please ask us about any subject that interests you; we are sure that we can accommodate you.

Connected Learning

Today's social and mobile media offer new opportunities for meaningful, demand-driven, and socially connected learning, but only the most activated digital learners are taking advantage of this potential. In our research, we found that young people are going online for informal and interest-driven learning, but with few connections back to school and academic subjects. As educators, parents, and learners, we are struggling to adapt to the new realities of a world of social media and free-flowing information. How can we best guide, mentor, teach and coach young people in an era of abundant information and social connection? What kinds of platforms, policies, and technologies can best connect between in-school and out-of-school learning and between adult and young people's social worlds?

Peer-Based Learning in a Networked Age

When you want to learn something new, where do you go for help? You might find a book or search online, but if you have a knowledgeable colleague or friend, chances are you’ll go to them first. Learning from our peers is efficient, enjoyable, and responsive to our learning needs. Whether it is gaming, sports, or fan fiction, youth connect to peers who share their interests and fuel their learning. In our research, we found that social media can be a powerful driver of interest-driven, peer-based learning, but very few kids or educators were taking full advantage of this potential, particularly for academic learning. This talk will describe the key dynamics of peer-based learning that are supported by today’s online environments, and how they can be applied to diverse learning goals.

Videos

Beyond Educational Technology

Feedback

A major software company:
Oh my God — she was wonderful, did a great job, was easy to work with. The audience found her refreshing. We were very glad that we had her. No negatives at all, and we have a pretty critical and cynical crowd.

Articles

— Spotlight