Tuesday, April 03, 2007

New Book Alert: Totally Wired:What Teens and Tweens are Really Doing Online

A new book on teen/tween online culture just came out, written by the creator of Ypulse blog, Anastasia Goodstein. The book, Totally Wired: What Teens and Tweens are Really Doing Online, provides a journalistic-toned investigation of contemporary Internet usage trends among young people (SNS!!!), focused on dispelling some of the common myths/media panics about youth online. From the publisher's book description:
With headlines like Online Danger Zone and Are Teens Saying Too Much Online? appearing in publications like The New York Times, Time, and Newsweek everyday adults are becoming increasingly worried about what kids are really doing on the Internet and with technology today. What are MySpace, Facebook, Xanga, Live Journal? What exactly are teens doing on them? Totally Wired is the first inside guide to explore what teens are doing on the Internet and with technology. Speaking with a cross section of industry professionals and teenagers, Anastasia Goodstein gets to the bottom of how teens use technology as well as the benefits and draw backs of this use.

The author is also maintaining a blog that follows-up on a number of issues discussed in the book, which you can find here.

I found out about this book through Goodstein's Ypulse blog, which I read daily and consider to be an invaluable resource for keeping up on youth/kid culture. The blog focuses on kids and marketing, and while it is certainly written from an industry perspective, it also includes a lot of very thoughtful, academic-like analyses of many of the marketing campaigns and youth trends it reports on. I expect the book to be similar, which leads me to the issue of "why academics should make a point of reading non-academic books". I find this is particularly the case with anything involving youth, technology and new media, as it can take academia years to process, analyze and churn stuff out on these (and any) topics, by which time the technology/social-networking site/MMOG is usually long gone. While this is perfectly wonderful for building knowledge of the field, these texts can usually only provide you with a somewhat indirect form of inspiration: You can see what holes in the research need filling, what research questions should be tackled next, how you could apply the same methodology or theoretical framework to an emerging technological form. But in terms of providing you with specific ideas for case studies, emerging issues that need tackling, etc., nothing beats a well-researched marketing or journalism-based book about current trends. While you always need to read these with a grain, nay a heavy tablespoon, of salt to keep from getting pulled onto the bandwagon, they're always shock full of interesting stats, examples and emerging sub-cultures, the newest youth fads, etc., i.e. lots of ideas that can now be researched and analyzed in depth by you, from an academic perspective, before anyone else in your field even hears about them.

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