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Accepted Paper:

"I can see it in your eyes, you will become a gardener" - Crumbling power of digital literacy amid chronic unemployment and stagnated coming-of-age  
Suzana Jovicic (University of Vienna)

Paper short abstract:

Based on the ethnographic research conducted in Vienna, I explore how youths negotiate chronic unemployment, boredom and stagnated coming-of-age against the backdrop of digital literacy narratives that promise empowerment and new occupational fields in exchange for productive digital practices.

Paper long abstract:

As digitization seeps into homes, offices, and factories alike, disenfranchised youth are often portrayed as losers of digital transformation within widespread digital literacy and digital empowerment narratives. Various review studies indicate that youths with limited socio-economic resources and lower formal education are generally less likely to employ digital technologies strategically and productively for school and career purposes. In a similar vein, the Austrian digital curriculum promotes digital literacy as a means to enable students to enter "promising occupational fields". However, when their ideological underpinnings remain unquestioned, such benevolent policies may reinforce the implicit notion that youths are responsible for freeing themselves from occupational constraints by practicing digital skills deemed as productive and efficient, even in their leisure time. Building on my ethnographic research in youth centers, schools, and youth coaching facilities in Vienna between 2018 and 2022, I complicate the story of seemingly deficient digital practices of youths negotiating unemployment, fragmented biographies, poverty, lack of role models, discrimination, stratified school system, and limited career choices inscribed into their bodies. I argue that digital literacy comes in many forms and is intertwined with profound socio-political and economic exclusions of the "invisible children" (Lemish, 2021) of the Global North; exclusions that are neither caused by the lack of digital literacy, nor can they be solved through "proficient" and "productive" digital practices that would seem oddly out of place.

Panel P168b
Digital media, work and inequalities [Media Anthropology Network]
  Session 1 Wednesday 27 July, 2022, -