The Digital Is Kid Stuff
Making Creative Laborers for a Precarious Economy
Published by: University of Minnesota Press
304 pages, 140.00 x 216.00 x 38.00 mm, 33 black & whilte illustrations
- ISBN: 9781517911140
- Published: January 2022
How popular debates about the so-called digital generation mediate anxieties about labor and life in twenty-first-century America
“The children are our future” goes the adage, a proclamation that simultaneously declares both anxiety as well as hope about youth as the next generation. In The Digital Is Kid Stuff, Josef Nguyen interrogates this ambivalence within discussions about today’s “digital generation” and the future of creativity, an ambivalence that toggles between the techno-pessimism that warns against the harm to children of too much screen time and a techno-utopianism that foresees these “digital natives” leading the way to innovation, economic growth, increased democratization, and national prosperity.
Nguyen engages cultural histories of childhood, youth, and creativity through chapters that are each anchored to a particular digital media object or practice. Nguyen narrates the developmental arc of a future creative laborer: from a young kid playing the island fictions of Minecraft, to an older child learning do-it-yourself skills while reading Make magazine, to a teenager posting selfies on Instagram, to a young adult creative laborer imagining technological innovations using design fiction.
Focusing on the constructions and valorizations of creativity, entrepreneurialism, and technological savvy, Nguyen argues that contemporary culture operates to assuage profound anxieties about—and to defuse valid critiques of—both emerging digital technologies and the precarity of employment for “creative laborers” in twenty-first-century neoliberal America.
Introduction: What We Are to Make of Creative Digital Youth
1. Minecraft and the Building Blocks of Creative Individuality
2. Make Magazine and the Responsible Risks of DIY Innovation
3. Instagram and the Creative Filtering of Authentic Selves
4. Design Fiction and the Imagination of Technological Futures
"Josef Nguyen offers a compelling, timely examination of how entangled digital media have become with childhood and creative expression. This is an illuminating and useful read for youth and media researchers, educators, and professionals working in informal education that gets beyond binary thinking about the goods or ills of digital media and instead digs into these forms as play and creative practice."—Carly A. Kocurek, author of Coin-Operated Americans: Rebooting Boyhood at the Video Game Arcade
"The Digital Is Kid Stuff is a brilliantly argued, engagingly written, and insightful unraveling of the discursive tensions between youth, digital media, and the neoliberal logics informing how and why we value young people’s capacity for creativity. Josef Nguyen offers a rich contextualization and analysis of the ideologies that shape how contemporary society imagines young people's position within creative economies."—Jacqueline Ryan Vickery, author of Worried About the Wrong Things: Youth, Risk, and Opportunity in the Digital World