Mizuko 'Mimi' Ito, UCI anthropology and informatics professor, has been named the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation Chair in Digital Media and Learning.  Created in 2009 from an endowment fund originally established by the Foundation at the University of California, Berkeley, the digital media and learning initiative aims to determine how digital media are changing the way young people learn, play, socialize and participate in civic life.

Ito’s five-year renewable appointment is in the Department of Anthropology in the School of Social Sciences and the Department of Informatics in the Bren School of Information and Computer Sciences.  Ito additionally serves as research director of the Digital Media and Learning Research Hub in the University of California Humanities Research Institute.

Ito is a cultural anthropologist of technology usage, focusing specifically on children and youth’s changing relationships to media and communications. She recently completed a MacArthur Foundation-funded three-year ethnographic study of child-initiated and peer-based forms of engagement with new media.

 “Her research unsettles conventional wisdom that things like computer game lead students to isolated lives of distraction, finding instead that children’s emerging forms of gameplay – some of which are not necessarily intended by software designers – demonstrate collaborative and creative strategies of learning,” says Bill Maurer, anthropology professor and Institute of Money, Technology, and Financial Inclusion. 

“Not only is Mimi Ito's research on children and media superb, her leadership in identifying critical issues, and translating them for policy makers and a wide public, has profoundly advanced our understandings of the rapidly changing media landscape,” says Bonnie Nardi, informatics professor familiar with Ito’s work.

“Mimi Ito is a true a leader in the area of digital media and learning; her ethnographic studies on how young people learn with digital media represent the seminal work in the field,” says Connie Yowell, program director of the MacArthur Foundation’s Digital Media and Learning initiative. “The  research hub she is establishing will support the next generation of scholars and the advance the entire field.”

In 2008, Ito was awarded the Jan Hawkins Award for Early Career Contributions to Humanistic Research and Scholarship in Learning Technologies from the American Educational Research Association. She holds Ph.D. degrees in education and anthropology from Stanford University.

Her publications include Engineering Play: A Cultural History of Children’s Software, and the co-authored book, Hanging Out, Messing Around, and Geeking Out: Kids Living and Learning with New Media, as well as a co-edited book, Personal Portable Pedestrian: Mobile Phones in Japanese Life.

connect with us


© UC Irvine School of Social Sciences - 3151 Social Sciences Plaza, Irvine, CA 92697-5100 - 949.824.2766