Children’s technologized bodies: mapping mixed reality
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.