Mimi Ito Awarded MacArthur Foundation 
Chair in Digital Media and Learning

IRVINE, Calif. – Mizuko “Mimi” Ito, an anthropology and informatics professor at the University of California, Irvine, 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 MacArthur 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 at the system-wide 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 games 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 director of the 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, a UC Irvine informatics professor who is familiar with Ito’s work.

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.

“Mimi Ito is a key figure in the intellectual movements of digital media and learning,” says David Theo Goldberg, director of the UC Humanities Research Institute, which is located at the UC Irvine campus. “Her appointment to the MacArthur Chair consolidates UC Irvine’s leadership in the field, and offers students and colleagues the opportunity to draw from Mimi’s prodigious knowledge and experience. We are thrilled that she has accepted the position.”

“Mimi Ito’s ethnographic studies on how young people learn with digital media represent the seminal work in the field,” says Connie Yowell, program director for the MacArthur Foundation’s digital media and learning initiative. “The  research hub she is establishing with Professor David Goldberg will support the next generation of scholars and advance the entire field of digital media and learning.

“Professor Ito is a true leader, she is very deserving of this award, and we are pleased to support her in this important work.”

About the Donald Bren School of Information and Computer Sciences: The Donald Bren School of Information and Computer Sciences is the first independent computer science school within the UC system and one of the fastest-growing programs of its kind in the nation. Elevated from department to school status in December 2002, information and computer sciences at UC Irvine is an academic community of more than 1,500 students, more than 100 full-time faculty and staff, and approximately 6,500 alumni worldwide. With experts in areas ranging from embedded computer systems and networking to bioinformatics and the social impacts of computing, the school ranks 15th among all public university computer science graduate programs, according to U.S. News & World Report.

About the School of Social Sciences: The School of Social Sciences is UC Irvine’s largest academic unit with more than 7,000 undergraduate and graduate students and 140 faculty, ten of whom belong to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and National Academy of Science, honors considered the highest in academia. Nationally ranked degree programs in anthropology, Chicano/Latino studies, cognitive sciences, economics, international studies, logic and philosophy of science, political science, and sociology prepare students with a thorough understanding of the human world through a rigorous, interdisciplinary investigation of major social sciences that impact our daily lives including research on global markets and cultures,  functioning of the human brain, local and international political systems, human relationships, and social change. The school’s more than 31,000 alumni can be found making a difference everyday in boardrooms, classrooms, law offices and non-profit organizations around the world.

About the University of California, Irvine: The University of California, Irvine, is a top-ranked university dedicated to research, scholarship and community service. Founded in 1965, UC Irvine is among the fastest-growing University of California campuses, with more than 27,000 undergraduate and graduate students and nearly 2,000 faculty members. The third-largest employer in dynamic Orange County, UCI contributes an annual economic impact of $3.6 billion. For more UCI news, visit www.today.uci.edu.