The Geek Instinct: Technological Change, Digital Adaptability, and Social Inequality


Mellon/ACLS Dissertation Completion Fellowships




This project investigates what it means to be a successful learner in the digital age. Youth are often assumed to be “digital natives” who master technology through simple immersion, yet research indicates there exist wide gaps in the ability to learn new technologies that can influence various forms of inequality. But little is known about how to explain why some are better equipped to learn than others. Using extensive field observations and interviews as well as a broader survey of Chicago public school eigthth graders from diverse socio-economic backgrounds, this dissertation describes what it means to be able to learn new technologies, how culture creates differences in adolescents’ approach to learning, and how these differences can be addressed.