Author Archives: Julian Sefton-Green

Digital Futures for Children

I am on the advisory board for the joint research centre at the LSE and 5Rights Foundation, Digital Futures for Children. This launches today (21 Nov 2023) with 4 key aims, to:

  • Conduct critical and practical research: We conduct high-quality research on current and emerging areas relevant to children’s rights in the digital environment. This includes research on topics such as online safety, digital literacy, and the impact of emerging technologies on children and young people.
  • Provide an evidence base for advocacy: We produce research outputs that contribute to a robust evidence base for advocacy on children’s rights in digital contexts. This will include longer-form research reviews, rapid response research briefs, and other materials that will provide key insights and recommendations to policymakers and other stakeholders.
  • Facilitate dialogue between academics and policymakers: We facilitate a bridge between academic research and policymaking, facilitating dialogue and exchange of ideas between scholars and policymakers to ensure that children’s rights are central in decision-making processes relating to digital provision and policy.
  • Amplify children’s voices: We ensure that children and young people have a meaningful voice in our research, and that their views and experiences are taken into account in the development of policy and practice. We will seek to capture the perspectives of diverse groups of children and young people, including those who are often marginalized or underrepresented.

Manifesto for a better children’s internet

I have been involved with project that imagined the digital products, services, and content that children experience online as ‘the Children’s Internet’. Our Manifesto, available here analysed the numerous things we can do to create a better Children’s Internet for the future.

As a society, we will benefit from an ongoing public conversation about how to create better children’s internet experiences. After all, a better Children’s Internet makes a better Internet for all, prompting us to consider what it really means to have fun, productive, safe, diverse and ethical internet experiences.

New PhDs -Young people’s learning in digital worlds: the alienation and reimagining of education.

I had the pleasure of co-supervising two PhDs from a collaboration between Utrecht University in the Netherlands and Deakin University in Melbourne, Australia. The aim of this project is to explore how learning is shaped through digital media, both in and beyond the classroom. Previous research has explored the potential of digital media for learning, but how digital media have changed the way we understand learning is rarely discussed. Examples of questions both projects investigated are: “How do young people learn in digital communities?”, “How does the structure of digital platforms shape learning processes?” and “How does the use of video games in the classroom changes perceptions of both learning and playing?”

Both candidates successfully recently defended their theses.

At Deakin, Chris Zomer’s thesis,  Laugh, Focus, and Perform! A Critical Ethnography of Gamified Engagement investigated the role of gamification in reshaping understandings and performances of student engagement in a private girls’ school in Melbourne’s inner east. Gamification’s proponents claim it creates engagement through game elements such as points, rewards, and a leaderboard. However, engagement is a problematic term and historical notions of student engagement are not necessarily congruent with perceptions of engagement in user-interface designs and games on which gamification is based. The aim of this research is to analyse how these ‘technoeconomic’ and ‘gameful’ discourses inform representations, performances, and perceptions of engagement.

At Utrecht, Zowi Vermeire thesis Youth’s desire to learn: The pedagogies of platformised learning communities investigated alternative forms of learning that youth create on social media platforms as these question accepted ideas about what constitutes “good” learning She undertook an ethnography of six learning communities on YouTube, Twitch and TikTok acquiring an understanding of how youth shape their own learning online and in doing so how they resist and appropriate pedagogical opportunities and limitations that formal education, social media platforms, and online learning optical communities offer them. The aim of the study is to explain how youth shape their learning online in order to offer inspiration to educators and policymakers to move beyond dystopian perspectives on youth and social media towards reimaginations of educational practices.

A blog from both candidates about their work can be found here.

Digital Childhoods seminar – a conversation with Edtech

The second in a series of public seminars brought together experts in children’s education technology industry experts, and academics to discuss ‘Australian EdTech for Better Digital Childhoods’. The seminar is part of a series focused on digital childhoods, jointly organised by the Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for the Digital Child and the Australian Centre for the Moving Image (ACMI) and can be found here.

A Research Agenda to Examine the Political Economy of Digital Childhood

As part of my work for the ARC centre of excellence researching digital childhood I chair the editorial board for our working papers.

I have also co-authored a review investigating how the historical concept of a political economy of childhood might be usefully applied to children growing up in the digital age in order to establish an new research agenda. The review first defines what a political economy of digital childhood has meant historically in order to map working definitions. It then characterises research into the differing political economies of:

  • communications and the media
  • children and consumerism,
  • digital consumption,
  • and the family and education to see how such traditions might be either brought together or kept apart.

It argues that the research arena of digital childhood sits at a confluence of these academic research traditions bringing together studies of the political economy of the media and of childhood. The paper then reviews contemporary research into the political economy of digital childhood and concludes by offering areas for further research and enquiry structured around the key themes of: markets; institutions and platforms; and value.

Learning to Live with Datafication: Educational Case Studies and Initiatives from Across the World

My new book co-edited with Luci Pangrazio has just been published and can be found here.

The collection argues that as digital technologies play a key role across all aspects of our societies and in everyday life, teaching students about data is becoming increasingly important in schools and universities around the world. We have brought together international case studies of innovative responses to datafication, setting an agenda for how teachers, students and policy makers can best understand what kind of educational intervention works and why.

We think that Learning to Live with Datafication is unique in its focus on educational responses to datafication as well as critical analysis. Through case studies grounded in empirical research and practice, the book explores the dimensions of datafication from diverse perspectives. It examines how educators conceptualise the social implications of datafication and what is at stake for learners and citizens as educational institutions try to define what datafication will mean for the next generation.

Embodied technology use: Unaccompanied refugee youth and the migrant platformed body

This article co- authored with Annamaria Neag and published here argues that technology occupies a central role in the lives of unaccompanied refugee youth. Technology helps them when crossing countries, finding a shelter, and accessing education, or even in negotiating family relations online (e.g., Çelikaksoy & Wadensjö, 2017; Marlowe & Bruns, 2020; Morrice et al., 2020). Research with young refugees shows that social media and smart devices have become essential means to resolve many challenges (Kutscher & Kreß, 2018). The aim of our article is to go beyond a utilitarian view of digital technologies and social media in the lives of migrant youth and show how digital actions can be extensions of bodily communications in relation to, for instance, locating the self within new cities, food, music, and religion. We introduce the concept of the migrant platformed body as a site of struggle for unity that brings past and present into continuous discussion in and through the uses of social media technologies.

The death of the educative subject? The limits of criticality under datafication

This article, written with Luci Pangrazio, argues that amidst ongoing technological and social change, there are implications for critical education that result from a data-driven model of digital governance. We argue that traditional notions of critique which rely upon the deconstruction and analysis of texts are increasingly redundant in the age of datafication, where the production of information is automated and hidden. We then explain the concept of the ‘educative subject’ within the liberal education tradition, with specific focus on the role of critique and reflexivity in their becoming.We explore how the logics and practices of datafication and automation pose unprecedented challenges to the educative subject, examining three features in particular: the creation of data subjects; the rise of correlationalism; and the move from representation to operationalisation. We conclude by outlining a research agenda to address the existential challenges posed by data education.

The article can be found here.

Tracing the enduring effects of community arts programs (TEECAPs)

I am just beginning a new three year project funded by the Wallace Foundation in the US.

The key aim of this study is to explore the long-term effects of participating in out-of-school (OST) arts education programs serving young people from marginalized communities. The project will delve into the life experiences of people who have participated in OST arts programs to determine how they perceive their participation affected their lives over the long-term. We will examine the potential shaping force of OST programs on identity formation and its influences on lifecourse trajectories that might derive from participation in non-formal arts education. By doing so, we will also shed light on the capacity of creative communities of practice and OST programs, in particular, to impact the life experiences of marginalized youth.

The rationale for the project is that although Education policy set by federal, state, and local agencies throughout the U.S. Australia and the UK promotes the value and need for creativity, critical thinking and problem-solving skills, yet opportunities for rich learning experiences that promote agency and a sense of belonging in relation to normative institutions are subject to racial and class divisions. Research that examines the ways in which a broad range of life-shaping capacities develop outside formal school settings can provide insight into the influence OST programs have, increasing recognition of their value and the possibilities for enhancing, expanding, and committing funding to OST arts education. 

The initiative will theorize and capture potential long-term outcomes of OST arts programs and then use the findings and implications to influence ongoing and future design, implementation, and evaluation of OST arts programs. This approach will challenge deficit or remedial discourses by reevaluating the educational status of the developmental processes and supportive personal relationships that many staff in this sector value as consequential outcomes, but which are rarely documented as such. The focus on capturing perceived impact over the long-term will be an ambitious and original contribution to the sector.

This project will first, derive narrative accounts of long-term impact from people who attended after-school arts -based programs at least 10 years ago. These accounts will be analyzed thematically and conceptually, and the findings reviewed and validated by three categories of stakeholders: the participants in the study themselves, program-based practitioners, and other stakeholders, including our technical advisory group. In the second phase, findings from these accounts and their subsequent validation will then be used for practical application. It is expected that program leaders, policy makers, researchers and funders will be able to use these findings in the support, design, implementation, improvement, and extension of programs to further test and refine strategies for long-term impacts of considerable social import. A potential third phase (not currently funded) could expand these strategies at scale through research-practice partnerships based on our findings.

I will be working with colleagues from the University of California, Irvine, the University of Kentucky and Parsons School of design, new school New York. This project builds on previous publications examining out-of-school learning and the project YouthSites, (a history of the political economy of after-school learning organisations in London, Vancouver and Toronto).

I will write more here project unfolds


I was recently interviewed ( in English) for the Spanish-language blog/YouTube channel about some of the long-term implications of the pandemic for how we might think about teaching and learning, schools and education systems. The YouTube interview can be found here.