Author Archives: Julian Sefton-Green

Children, Media, and Pandemic Parenting: Family Life in Uncertain Times

I am very pleased to have contributed, even if only by way of a forward, to this new book, available here. Edited by Rebekah Willett and Xinyu Zhao, the book examines changes in families’ rules and routines connected with media during the pandemic and shifts in parents’ understanding of children’s media use.

Drawing on interviews with 130 parents at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, the book explores specific cultural contexts across seven countries: Australia, Canada, China, Colombia, South Korea, United Kingdom, and United States. Readers will gain an understanding of family media practices during the pandemic and how they were influenced by contextual factors such as the pandemic restrictions, family relationships and situations, socioeconomic statuses, cultural norms and values, and sociotechnical visions, among others. Further, encounter with theoretical framings will provide innovative ways to understand what it means for children, parents, and families to live in the digital age.

Database as method: Exposing ‘data’ about educational technology through a design intervention

As part of my work at the Centre for the Digital Child I have been working with colleagues on the political economy of Edtech. Here is one preliminary article exploring some of these themes.

Ubiquitous datafication of children and families in educational and everyday settings is both a result of and catalyst for power asymmetries between digital platforms and their users. These platforms seek to know their users by extracting and analysing various streams of personal information, often discreetly. However, the users are rarely equipped to do the same to the platforms as information about these platforms is often obscured, convoluted, or simply unavailable. This article explores the possibilities of reversing such power imbalance via the design intervention of an Australia-focused educational technology (EdTech) database developed by the authors of this article. Employing a design intervention method, the database is a collection of publicly available information about EdTech companies and products that target young children and their parents or educators in Australia. This alternate commentary article presents and discusses the ongoing processes of developing the database to reflect on what it says about the power relations between EdTech providers and their users. It demonstrates how the database works as a pedagogical space where people learn how to critically unpack and think about contemporary EdTech platforms. The database is positioned as a point of convergence for different actors involved in children’s digital learning to collectively understand what needs to be done to enact and protect children’s digital rights in education.

Who else is reimagining learning in digital worlds besides big tech?

I gave this talk recently at a seminar held at the University of Utrecht called Platforms and Pedagogies: Digital technologies and new perspectives for Youth & Education which concluded the Learning in digital Worlds project held jointly between Deakin and Utrecht. A PDF of my slides can be found here. I tried to offer way of not being subsumed by a “platform gaze” arguing that we need to think of platforms as a larger process owned jointly by a range of actors and institutions which constitute the under-the-surface work of a platform, and that future research needs explore the work of these various sectors and organisations as part of any agenda examining platforms in education.

I also visited colleagues at the University of Groningen offering a PhD masterclass on platform pedagogies and a talk reprising The Class asking whether it still asks the right questions in a post Covid platformed vision of society.

Youthsites :Histories of Creativity, Care, and Learning in the City

This co-authored book has just been published. It is open access and is available here.

The book is an original study of the youth organizations in London, Toronto, and Vancouver that offer creative and arts learning mainly to youth from diverse and socially marginalized backgrounds. It describes a sector that is often not recognized as such, organizations that don’t like being institutionalized, forms of education that exist outside the mainstream, and types of aesthetic expression that often go unrecognized.

Rooted in the history of community arts movements Youthsites are now part of cities around the world.Technological change, shifts in educational and policy discourses and a decline in funding of formal public schooling have all impacted the growth of youth arts organizations.

Yet, there are to date no systematic studies of the history, structure, and development of this “sector”. We wanted to fill this gap and the book is the first study to develop an internationally comparative, evidence-based, analysis of the organizations, and people who are helping young people to become creators, citizens, or just themselves in times of austerity, crisis, and change.

Is there a ‘theory of learning’ for cultural studies and is it (still) relevant in an era of surveillance capitalism?

This article questions how cultural studies has been constructed as an educational project to examine if it might offer principles for learning about living in digital culture now. It first considers how the subject of Cultural Studies developed in relationship to education and then revisits empirical studies of cultural studies in schools. The essay engages with perspectives on evaluating the effects of these approaches and situates debates about learning with reference to theories of resistance and the field of reception studies. The final section of the article explores what cultural studies could and should be doing nowadays amidst considerable concern about the politics of digital culture. It challenges whether some of the underlying educational principles which animated its origins have any value in contemporary concerns with forms of surveillance capitalism.