chapter  19
9 Pages

Children’s technologized bodies: mapping mixed reality

ByMeenakshi Gigi Durham

In some sense, children have always been active participants in technoculture. Archaeological evidence indicates that children were involved with technology as far back as prehistoric times: excavations reveal that children used flints, axes, and other stone tools in the Paleolithic era (Grimm, 2000; Högberg, 2008; Montagu, 1976; Shea, 2006), wielded daggers and needles in the Bronze Age (Rega, 2000), threw pots in the first century C.E. (Kamp, 2001). During the Industrial Revolution, children “toiled in early mills, mines and manufactories” (Humphries, 2010, p. 1), handling lathes, looms, and lethal equipment. Child labor laws put an end to all that, but children turned to technological tools for recreation in the twentieth century: Boy Scouts rigged amateur radios (Arceneaux, 2009), children snapped pictures with Brownie cameras (Olivier, 2007), and budding DeMilles pointed home movie cameras at their parents and siblings to create amateur films (Luckett, 1995). It should not surprise us, then, that in the contemporary moment children have taken to

technologies like the proverbial ducks to water, programming smartphones, downloading applications, and reconfiguring laptops before they’re even out of preschool. Children’s worlds are now pervaded by digital technologies to an extent that certain traditional boundariesbetween the “real” and the “virtual,” body and machine, subject and object-are beginning to blur and break down, for better or worse. In fact, the media scholar Mark Hansen argues that in today’s media environment, “all reality

is mixed reality” (2006, p. 1)—composed of “fluid and functional crossings between virtual and physical realms” (p. 2). No longer can we draw clear lines between the “real world” and “cyberspace,” for it is largely through our engagements with technologies that we experience the world. As Hansen points out, “technologies work to expand the body’s motile, tactile, and visual interface with the environment,” mediating “our embodied coupling with the world” (2006, p. 26). The ease with which children of all ages handle technology is a taken-for-granted aspect

of contemporary life. Although it is important to recognize that children’s access to, and uses of, technology differ depending on contextual features such as location, socioeconomic status, and developmental stage (Selwyn, 2009), it is still arguable that in technologically advanced cultures, these toys and tools are seamlessly integrated into the surfaces of everyday life, unremarkable features of children’s lifeworlds.