(Im)Mobilizing Community College Youths' Digital Culture: Theorizing the Implications of Everyday Digital Practices, Perceptions, and Differences among Frederick Community College Youths
Trigger, Kelly Lynn
Struna, Nancy L
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This study complicates American youths' digital culture by analyzing the digital practices, perceptions, and experiences of students, ages 18 to 24, attending Frederick Community College in Frederick, Maryland, through an interdisciplinary lens that infuses intersectional theory with Bourdieu's triad of habitus, field, and capital. Mixed methods research combining data from the FCC Digital Practices Survey and focus group interviews indicated that community college youths engaged in a spectrum of practices to socialize and communicate, engage in entertainment and creative practices, and manage everyday life, information, school, and work. Community college youths actively participated in digital culture through social networking, listening to music, watching television, playing videogames, and engaging with other technology. Not only did they feel pressured to adapt digitally, they also intentionally disengaged from technology, managed their lives using digital tools, resolved communication conflicts, monitored their online identities and privacy, developed various forms of digital expertise, and observed the impacts of adults' struggles with technology at home and in the classroom. Data patterns, including differences between males and females, and among youths with different racial and ethnic identities, revealed contradictions among their everyday digital practices, their confidence with performing these practices, and their perceptions of practices' importance in college and in their future everyday lives and work. This study theorizes the impacts of these contradictions, proposing that as youths encounter shifts in the symbolic value of digital practices between their everyday digital culture and the field of education, they experience what Clarke et al. (2009) termed "digital dissonance," conflicts between their everyday digital practices and their digital engagement in education. Impacts of digital dissonance, which range from resolution and circumnavigation, to digital stagnation and immobilization, affect the uneven positions youths take up within the field of community college education and potentially result in the unintended reproduction of social inequity. To disrupt the reproduction of inequity, this study considers the material consequences of digital immobilization for community college youths and advocates for intentional reform and research that mobilizes their digital practices.