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Accepted Paper:

"Das Internet ist komplett gut" - Inviting Adolescents to Look Behind Screens through a Co-Designed Serious Game  
Suzana Jovicic (University of Vienna)

Paper short abstract:

Popular discourses on digital media often project anxieties about digital futures onto adolescents without involving them. The paper scrutinizes the mundane practices of scrolling among marginalized youths in Vienna. The research is a part of a project co-designing a serious game with adolescents.

Paper long abstract:

Popular discourses on digital media technologies oftentimes project anxieties about digital futures onto a generalized "smartphone generation". Barely any other image appears more consistently associated with digital media, than the teenager, frozen either in the extremes of "native" competence or zombie-like consumption. Their future is imagined without them, while the tech industry design practices remain obscure: the sticky screens of smartphones invite to lean forward, not to look behind the screens (Richardson 2010). The youths on the margins are rarely invited to look behind in a context where digital literacy is a privilege.

This paper examines the everyday smartphone practices among adolescents on the periphery, based on participant observations in Viennese youth centers. Design mechanisms, exemplified by the practices of scrolling the Instagram feed, are taken under scrutiny, based on the concept of the "mundane"(Pink et al. 2017) and barely visible "non-events" (Ehn und Löfgren 2010). The experiences of boredom and waiting in the context of marginalization is linked to the effortlessness of scrolling. Mundane, everyday practices exemplify the nuances of digitalized sociality and commercialization and reveal everyday inequalities, beyond simple access to the internet and digital technologies.

The presented anthropological research is part of a wider interdisciplinary project, including a cognitive and a computer scientist, thematizing the ethics of digital design through a co-designed serious game. The goal of the project is to foster transparency and an active understanding of the mechanisms behind social media and involve adolescents in the dialogue through a bottom-up design process.

Panel P026
Futures Anthropology as Interventional Theory and Practice [Future Anthropologies Network]
  Session 1 Friday 24 July, 2020, -