Michelle Morgenstern

Elis Olsson Memorial Foundation Fellow
Class: 2018
Hometown: Vienna, Virginia
B.A. Franklin & Marshall College (2009)
M.S. University of Pennsylvania (2010)

The literacy experiences of American youth extend far beyond the classroom with its essays, spelling tests, and reading comprehension quizzes. Whether it is acknowledged with nostalgic lamenting over diminishing opportunities for face-to-face interaction or futurist excitement over expanding worlds of connection, there is little argument that American youth are increasingly spending their time in spaces mediated by digital technologies - spaces where text, not verbal speech, is the ubiquitous form of communication. At the same time, educators, journalists, parents, activists, and youth themselves are turning increasing attention to the interaction of new media and online platforms in participatory politics and civic engagement. Michelle’s dissertation leverages tools from linguistic anthropology to explore how American teenagers participate in ‘peer-driven’ projects of social critique and social justice on social media. She asks questions such as: How do they develop ethical stances in these contexts? What role does fun, humor, and play have? How is meaning made and what does language look like in these digital linguistic worlds?

Michelle is finishing her third and final year of coursework and will be heading to the field next year to begin her ethnographic research on this project.

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