Chapter I. Methods

From Dissertation in Progress
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The research design and methods for this dissertation have been greatly shaped by the Digital Edge Project; a three-year research project that examined young people’s new media and learning ecologies. As part of the research team led by S. Craig Watkins (Principal Investigator), I spent over a year conducting ethnographic fieldwork at Freeway High School, and two years analyzing the data we collected. Although there are several similarities and intersections between the Digital Edge Project and my dissertation, there are also important differences between the two, especially regarding the objectives, research questions, sample of participants, data analysis, and limitations. When describing the work of the Digital Edge, I will use the plural pronouns “we” and “us” to credit the work and findings of the research team I was part of. In contrast, when describing the specific research questions, findings, and analyses of this dissertation, as well as the case studies I personally conducted, I use personal pronouns to distinguish my work from the larger collective project.

Objectives and Research Questions

This dissertation is concerned with the problem of immigrant youth assimilation into the U.S. and the problem of digital inequalities. I examine these issues through a series of case studies about the mediated activities of five Latino/Hispanic immigrant youths, with working-class socioeconomic backgrounds, in three contexts: the family/home, an after-school program, and the multi-setting of social media networked spaces. My aims are:

  1. to understand the characteristics of the new media practices and skills that five Latino/Hispanic immigrant youths develop as they use digital tools;
  2. to investigate the assimilation process of five second- and 1.5-generation Latino/Hispanic immigrant youth in a context of networked communication, a hyper-mediated culture, and structural inequalities;
  3. to contribute to the theory of segmented assimilation by considering how immigrant youths’ new media practices shape the process of incorporation into a host country;
  4. to understand the complex evolution of digital inequalities and participation gaps.