Review of the first edition of Hanging Out, Messing Around, and Geeking Out

Between 2008 and 2011, I wrote several brief reviews of books which appeared on the Education Review web site. Since then, the editors ceased publication of that type of review and removed the previously published brief reviews from the site. I am making the original drafts of my reviews available here.

Ito, M. (2009). Hanging Out, Messing Around, and Geeking Out: Kids Living and Learning with New Media London: The MIT Press. A new version of this work was published in 2019l


Today, education occurs in a sociocultural context that is influenced to great degree by rapidly evolving information and computer technology (ICT). One of the challenges this poses for educators is the differences between young people’s relationships with ICT and adults’ relationships with ICT. These challenges are exacerbated by the manner in which the popular media reports on these relationships and differences. This book reports on a three-year ethnography exploring the influences of ICT on young people that was supported by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation and conducted at the University of California, Berkeley, and the University of Southern California; and many researchers contributed chapters to the book.

As an ethnography, the project collected data, especially qualitative data, from diverse populations of young people. The data are used to support and explicate several themes that characterize the emerging media ecology in which today’s young people live and grow.

The emerging media ecology is described as a highly social environment and the authors portray it as dominated by friendship-driven interactions and interest-driven interactions. The way these interactions influence seven aspects of young people’s lives and experiences are detailed in seven chapters: friendship, intimacy, family, gaming, creative production, and work. In each chapter, young people’s experiences as described in their words and the authors interpret and frame these experiences to provide a view of the emerging media ecology that is available in neither the current peer-reviewed literature nor the popular media. In addition to those seven chapters, the book includes a chapter introducing ecology as a metaphor describing the current role of ICT in society, a summary chapter, appendices detailing the research project, and an expensive bibliography.

The authors conclude that any pedagogical initiatives in the 21st century must recognize and be designed to proceed in the reality created by the emerging media ecology. Although the details of the implications of this media ecology for curriculum and instruction are left to practitioners, the authors do provide an excellent an insightful overview of the ICT-rich reality of today’s young people.