Digital Technologies and Adults: Social Networking, Holding Environments, and Intellectual Development

  • Smith M CecilEmail author
  • Lindstrom Denise L
Living reference work entry


This chapter is concerned with understanding and describing how digital technology tools for communication – specifically, online social networking sites (e.g., Facebook, Twitter) – may support and contribute to adults’ cognitive development (i.e., verbal skills, reasoning, and problem-solving abilities). We draw upon a theory of adult intellectual development – constructive developmentalism (Kegan, R. In over our heads: The mental demands of modern life. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1994) – that describes how adults make sense of increasingly complex environments and how their interactions with digital environments may support or enhance meaning-making in everyday life. The concept of “holding environments” is used to explain the digital space created both by what the social networking site affords and the users’ decisions about how to design and use their social network (i.e., for information, entertainment, discussions). The qualities of the holding environment play a significant role in users’ participation in online networking sites and what they may gain from such participation, in terms of cognitive skills. Implications for education around learners’ uses of digital tools are discussed.


Adult development Social networking sites Holding environment 


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.College of Education and Human ServicesWest Virginia UniversityMorgantownUSA
  2. 2.Department of Curriculum & Instruction/Literacy Studies, College of Education and Human ServicesWest Virginia UniversityMorgantownUSA

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