JCMC: The Internet at Play: Child Users of Public Internet Connections
Sandvig, C. (2006). The Internet at play: Child users of public Internet connections. Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, 11(4), article 3. http://jcmc.indiana.edu/vol11/issue4/sandvig.html
This article reports an ethnographic study of a subsidized computer center for children in an inner-city library. Unsurprisingly, young children play with the Internet. Surprisingly, this creates conflict with the justifications given for such centers by adults and public policy, leading to an atmosphere of tension between differing understandings of the Internet's purpose: as a place for ritual and play vs. as a place for the transmission of information and for work (Carey, 1989). Theories of play based on Huizinga (1950) and Gadamer (1989) are used to explain Internet play. The study finds that the narrowly instrumental rationales of public policy about the digital divide are rehearsed and repeated in everyday conversation at the center, even to the extent that child's play is denaturalized and seen as a problem that must be corrected.
Good reading for public library staff. There's an ongoing battle in some public libraries between adult visitors who want to use the limited resources for job or house hunting and the kids who want to play. Frequently adults visitors feel that their work is more important than the children's play.
Also, this idea of "ritual" communication where "it is not the exchange of information that is relevant, but the cultural understandings developed through an interaction" may be useful in the DOPA discussion. In fact this article in general might inform that discussion.
I have to laugh at the observations of how the children use the computers -- they seem pretty much on. Unfortunately, this study was actually conducted in 1998-9. I wonder what has changed? Maybe nothing.
Updated for yucky formatting.