Digital Technologies and Marginalized Youth: Reducing the Gap

Two papers by TASCHA-affiliated researchers were presented at the Digital Technologies and Marginalized Youth: Reducing the Gap workshop at the 8th International Conference on Interaction Design and Children (IDC) 2009 in Como Italy. The workshop discussed the question of how ICTs can spark the integration and participation of young people with difficult backgrounds. Key issues discussed included:

  • What are the characteristics and conditions for social exclusion with respect to ICTs?
  • How do young people become able to integrate their experiences with digital media, by applying their virtual experiences to their real world, and vice versa?
  • How can ICT design processes be organized in order to promote participation of marginalized young people?
  • Which socio-technological environments are more suitable to foster curiosity and interest in this target group, and to achieve real benefits?
  • Is there any “proof” of what kind of products, interfaces, and ICT-mediated experiences are more suitable to promote inclusion and integration of marginalized youngsters?

Papers presented

New institutions and transformations: Computers and youth in low-income urban Guatemala and Brazil Michele Frix, Jay Freistadt, Philip Neff, Joyojeet Pal


Exposure to crime and violence, discrimination, and a structural lack of institutional support for education and human development continue to plague at-risk youth in urban poor neighborhoods of Latin America. With the increase in share of private investment in human development projects, subsidized technology centers have grown significantly throughout the region, offering a means of vocational training for youth in urban low-income areas. Literature on the problems of youth in Latin America, especially relating to violence, teaches us much about the functional use of technology in these contexts. Using indepth qualitative research with youth participating in programs at such technology centers in three neighborhoods of São Paulo and Guatemala City, we explore the range of issues impacting the use of technology by disadvantaged youth. We find that computer centers are not only seen as a ‘safe public space’ for youth to occupy their time, but are also filling a void made by the lack of institutional higher education options.

MultiMath: Using Numeric Keypads to Utilize Limited Computer Resources for Education Heather Underwood, Clint Tseng, Charlotte Robinson, Sunil Garg, Meera Lakshmanan, Richard Anderson, Joyojeet Pal


As the need for access to technology in developing regions increases rapidly, the supply of personal computers in these areas fails to meet the demand. In the context of education and the presence of computers in under-funded schools, the computer-tochild ratio

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limits equal access to educational material and deprives marginalized children of valuable digital literacy skills. In this paper we expand on prior shared computing research to demonstrate that ten-key numeric keypads are usable as primary input devices and provide the benefits of increased engagement and collaborative learning while offering an inexpensive and versatile educational tool for shared computing scenarios.