[This post originally appeared on the MIT CoLab Radio blog, in Danielle Martin's Media Mindfulness column.]
The Department of Play (DoP) is a working group of researchers, developers, and community practitioners at the MIT Center for Future Civic Media (C4FCM) bonded by a common value: the design of new technologies and methodologies to support youth as active participants in their local urban neighborhoods.
We might glance at the teen sitting next to us on the bus with a smart-phone and think: “Wow, the digital divide is shrinking.” My first thought goes to all the youth who don’t have access to mobile phones, who also have things to say. But I do see the divide diminishing when I see the wide smile of a Peruvian youth playing around with a big red balloon with a makeshift camera rig he made himself, to make his own map of his favela neighborhood.
While higher broadband speeds and affordability recommended by the FCC’s recent national broadband plan should increase access to internet tools in under-served communities, we still need to consider the increased digital literacy and local facilitation necessary to use fully tap the power of these tools. While access is important, much more is needed to make sure technology can be used to empower young people.