While most research related to young people and technology still focuses attention on the digital divide, Dr. S. Craig Watkins, associate professor in the Radio-Television-Film Department at the University of Texas, has remained ahead of the curve by focusing on how to increase digital access for youth and people of color. “I’m most passionate about looking at matters of equity and trying to examine and understand how access to technology is unevenly distributed in terms of race or class,” he said.
Watkins, a faculty fellow for the Division of Diversity and Community Engagement, earned his Ph.D. from the University of Michigan in 1994. Since then he has become a member of the MacArthur Foundation’s research network on Connected Learning and a sought after expert on young people and digital access.
He came to the University of Texas because he had the opportunity to join the RTF Department and join “a university that appreciated the work that I do looking at how young people use media and technology.” His research methods are as unique as the books and articles he’s written on the topic of youth interaction with digital media.
His primarily qualitative and ethnographic approach to visiting high school students in their element, both at school and at home, offers his work a unique perspective. His most recent book, “The Young and the Digital: What the Migration to Social Network Sites, Games and Anytime, Anywhere Media Means for Our Future,” is based on that in-depth fieldwork. “A lot of people consider my work to be relevant and timely,” he said. “It really responds to and addresses a lot of the critical discussions about youth, technology, education and 21st Century skills.”
His work, which has been focused on what he calls the new urban market, analyzes how youth use digital to reshape American popular culture and media. He said he is most interested in creating “a future and a world where all kids have access to technology” in addition to building “opportunities for kids to develop the expertise and competencies that they need.”