February 2020 Spotlight, Kaveri Subrahmanyam,Ph.D.

This month, we are delighted to introduce Dr. Kaveri Subrahmanyam (ksubrah@calstatela.edu) as our member in spotlight. Kaveri is currently a Professor in the Department of Psychology in the College of College of Natural and Social Sciences at the California State University. She is the Director of the Media and Language Lab, here at CalStateLA and the Associate Director of the Children’s Digital Media Center @ LA (UCLA/CSULA).  Kaveri has two strands of research: one strand investigates youth and their use of digital media and the effects of such use on their learning and development while another focuses on language learning, specifically dual language learning. 

1)What drew you to do work on Asians, Asian American children and youth, or another topic that is important to you now? who was an important mentor to you in this work, or an influential particular study in the field or in a related field?

A major strand of my research examines the developmental implications of interactive digital contexts in the lives of young people.  I was drawn to this topic as it became clear to my colleagues and myself at the Children’s Digital Center @ Los Angeles that new online worlds were becoming an important social context for youth.  Thus began our work to understand the implications of digital communication for adolescent development.  Equally important, as screens have become the vehicle for communicating and accessing information, I became curious about the impact of screen reading and multitasking on learning and cognition.  Another strand of my research examines the role of contextual factors such as the preschool classroom and the home media environment in the development of young Latino dual language learners’ oral language and narrative skills.  I was drawn to this topic given persisted achievement gaps among dual language learners in the U.S. and the the important role of early language in academic achievement.

The person who has been an important mentor throughout my career is Prof Patricia Greenfield at UCLA.  She was one of the first to even be working on the topic of video games and she has inspired me to look at the relation between  technology and development in novel ways.  I am grateful for all her support, mentorship, and friendship through the years.

2) A short paragraph describing a particular recent finding, current study, or recent publication and what makes you excited about it. 

One recent finding that I am particularly excited about is from a daily diary study that compared the relation between interaction quality and well-being  in three different modes of communication – face-to-face, text messaging, and social networking.  As expected, quality of interaction was related to well-being that day for both face-to-face and digital modes.  But only quality of face-to-face interactions predicted well-being the next day.  In other words, it is possible that positive feelings emanating from digital interactions are more ephemeral  or fleeting.  Or it could be that we need lots of digital interactions to maintain the positive after effects.  The results have important implications for practice, and suggest that we should not treat digital and face to face interactions to be equivalent; instead, we should be more intentional as to when we use digital versus face-to-face communication.

3) Any thoughts about your experiences with the Asian Caucus.

Although my research has not focused on Asian or Asian-American issues, I have several collaborators from Asia as youths’ use of technology is a growing concern the world over.  I am also excited to serve on the Social Policy subcommittee of the SRCD Asian Caucus and look forward to advancing causes relevant to our caucus.

4) Any upcoming talks or presentations?

I will be presenting a paper in a symposium at the upcoming SRA conference in March.

5)  A preferred weblink


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