My name is Matt Rafalow and I am a sociologist (PhD, University of California-Irvine), a researcher for the Connected Learning Research Network, and a resident social scientist at Google. I have also been a researcher at Yahoo! Labs and GovLab. My work primarily centers on youth/young adults and digital technology, though I also study particular uses of tech with colleagues in other research areas (education, dating, organizations, financial exchange, and innovation).
My dissertation explores how digital technologies are taken up and evaluated in different educational contexts. For this project, I compare how three technology-rich middle schools perceive the value of innovative new technologies and teach so-called 21st century skills. I find that teachers draw on organization-level understandings of student race and class to construct students as either risky hackers or Steve Jobs potentials. I then explore how the playful experiences young people pursue online among their peers are differently welcomed by schools in ways that inform their affinity as creative producers within institutions.
I am very fortunate to be supported by such a great committee: Cynthia Feliciano, Francesca Polletta, Ann Hironaka, and Mimi Ito. This project also benefits from my existing work on youth peer practices with digital media. With other graduate students and faculty from research teams around the country, I am examining youth interaction across networked environments as part of the Connected Learning Research Network. From this work I have written on games, gamification, and reputation online; gender differences in online participation; and design supports for parent engagement with their children. I recently released a report with Katie Tekinbaş on game-based learning online, and another with Kylie Larson on DIY fashion camps. We’re currently writing a book on learning in the networked era that I’m really excited about.
When I’m not doing research, I’m quite active with LGBTQ outreach both locally through mentorship and more broadly via the internets. I’m also really into cooking, and I am most certainly a dog person (especially when it comes to my own).