Affinity Online

How Connection and Shared Interest Fuel Learning

256 pages

28 halftones

December, 2018

ISBN: 9781479852758



Add to Cart Available: 11/23/2018

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Mizuko Ito is Professor in Residence and the director of the Connected Learning Lab at the University of California, Irvine. She is cofounder of the nonprofit Connected Camps and former Chair of the Connected Learning Research Network. 

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Crystle Martin is Director of Library and Learning Resources at El Camino College.

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Rachel Cody Pfister has a PhD from the Department of Communication at the University of California, San Diego. 

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Matthew H. Rafalow is a social scientist at YouTube, where he conducts design-facing research on digital technology adoption among youth and young adults. 

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Katie Salen is founding Executive Director of Institute of Play, cofounder of Connected Camps, and Professor in Informatics at UC Irvine, where she teaches in the Computer Game Science and MHCID programs. 

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Amanda Wortman is the Research Manager for the Connected Learning Lab and for the Connected Learning Research Network, based at the University of California, Irvine. 

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How online affinity networks expand learning and opportunity for young people

Boyband One Direction fanfiction writers, gamers who solve math problems together, Harry Potter fans who knit for a cause. Across subcultures and geographies, young fans have found each other and formed community online, learning from one another along the way. From these and other in-depth case studies of online affinity networks, Affinity Online considers how young people have found new opportunities for expanded learning in the digital age. These cases reveal the shared characteristics and unique cultures and practices of different online affinity networks, and how they support “connected learning”—learning that brings together youth interests, social activity, and accomplishment in civic, academic, and career relevant arenas. Although involvement in online communities is an established fixture of growing up in the networked age, participation in these spaces show how young people are actively taking up new media for their own engaged learning and social development.

While providing a wealth of positive examples for how the online world provides new opportunities for learning, the book also examines the ways in which these communities still reproduce inequalities based on gender, race, and socioeconomic status. The book concludes with a set of concrete suggestions for how the positive learning opportunities offered by online communities could be made available to more young people, at school and at home. Affinity Online explores how online practices and networks bridge the divide between in-school and out-of-school learning, finding that online affinity networks are creating new spaces of opportunity for realizing the ideals of connected learning.



  • "Reminds us that education is not just learning, it is learning embedded in systems of institutional organization, cultural capital, and peer networks. Drawing on a multi-year research project on young people's behavior online, the book traces student interest in a remarkable range of topics—fabric arts, professional wrestling, Bollywood dance—to make a lucid and compelling argument that participation in affinity networks can have a critical and positive effect on student learning and life chances. Affinity Online is that rare scholarly work that is as interesting to read for the closely observed detail as for the sweep of its larger argument."

    —Clay Shirky, author of Little Rice: Smartphones, Xiaomi, and the Chinese Dream

  • "Helps those of us who are no longer kids to understand how their online and offline worlds connect. These global case studies give us insights into youth at the same time that detailed notes about how the authors themselves used their online tools to collaborate help researchers understand what is possible in a truly connected world."

    —Cathy N. Davidson, Founding Director and Distinguished Professor, The Futures Initiative, Graduate Center, CUNY