Blog Post

DML 2011 liveblog: Youth, Digital Media and Citizenship

[Apologies for any typoes and misrepresentations. This is my first try at liveblogging! But since I'm here at DML 2011 as part of HASTAC's social media team, it seemed like a good time to dive in.]

S. Craig Watkins opens by talking about young people as critical citizens and the need to encourage spaces and ecologies for them to set their own terms. Introduces the panel : Henry Jenkins, Lissa Soep, Anastasia Goodstein.

Lissa Soep speaks first (I think! Was trying to organize internet & twitter and may have misheard). 

Youth radio:

Starts by asking us to think about embed code: a mechanical act that we can think of as a metaphor, translating digital media toward collective action. What methodology we need to track young people's activity & development online?

6 months recording at youth radio newsroom led by 21 year old Denise in collaboration with NPR's All Things Considered. Stories of 2 young women who were drawn into trafficking at 15, now 18: "Trafficked Teen Girls Describe Life in the Game."

"Nobody does anything," says the NPR voiceover. Youth radio activists are trying to do something, to document these stories: what does it do? CA law criminalizes under age girls involved in trafficking while protecting traffickers & johns in problematic ways.

What role does digital media play here? Like the girls speaking, the recorder, and the city of Oakland, digital media is a character in this story: making things better or worse? The answer is yes, it does both. Arguing whether media's empowering or making things more difficult is pointless, always both at once. 

Re: child exploitation: on one hand, digital media can help, law enforcement has more resources to track movements of traffickers online. On the other hand, becomes more difficult to contain & transform global than local infrastructures.

Digital & social media's role in telling the story: Denise used it extensively to record & also in distribution--elements that would never end up on the radio, picked up by Huffington Post, a silicon valley business site. As Denise's content moves out of her control & her social justice project, it gets trivialized & new risks for the girls whose stories were exposed and for Denise herself.

The same skills and habits we celebrate as participatory citizenship are also used by traffickers. Question to ask is under what conditions does digital media improve things for youth? 

Youth Radio: production company driven by youth, recruited from local public schools, low income youth & youth of color. ;

Peer education, collegial pedagogy: youth/adult collaboration. Embed code: as a code of conduct, a mode of citizenship where young people are producing content beyond publication: holding onto your work as it goes out to be repeated and embedded in other people's context; the digital afterlife. Political economies get connected by a single piece of content, embedded works affecting the contexts in which they appear. The need to move beyond the role of witnesss. To move beyond uploading video as a record of an event to an embedded narrative.

Example of the Oscar Grant story, which happened a short distance from youth radio station in Oakland. Cell phone footage uploaded & Youth Radio was able to share & contextalize: embedding culture.

How far can we go as investigative reporters? Where is the edge between activism, advocacy, journalism? 

Yesterday's keynote: charts and graphs showed how young people are using media, researchers can track them. But in an embedding culture, young people need to be the ones doing the tracking, knowing where their content lives so its impact can make a difference in their lives.


Anastasia Goodstein on Youth, Digital Media and Mental Health. 

She opens by saying she's not an academic researcher; works with Inspire organization in Australia that has recently expanded to Ireland and the US. A small, scrappy nonprofit startup...

How can young people who may be at risk find the help that they need online (and why don't they)? Creating a site to get youth to come to vs going to existing communities where people already spend time & discuss issues/

Stats: Suicide leading cause of death for 15-24 year olds; often don't seek help due to stigma around mental ill health, limited insurance coverage, unwillingness to seek help due to cultural stigma. Stigma + anonymity = help seeking online. -- developed for youth by youth drawing on evidence based principles (they won't publish stories from young people who are in crisis and not seeking help, they will try to get that person help & publish stories from those who are in process of seeking help or have come through crisis.

It gets better campaign; reachout as similar but coming from young people rather than grownups, building resiliency.

Website has factsheets, literacy tools, coping strategies, audio/video/written personal stories with eg experience of what therapy is like; submitted anonymously. Social interaction with blogs & commentsthis is premoderated. Question: how to create safe space online when dealing with these serious issues, as they begin to launch forums: can they take the chance of having a young person post eg about their plan to commit suicide?

[I wonder about the tension between this kind of moderation and the desire to have site be 'by and for' young people]

Example email from 17 year old: "this website has saved my life"

How does this relate to digital citizenship? Creating a culture of support: "you are not alone"; or advocating for peers on other social media sites, when hostile comments are made. Eg "where all the teens posting pictures of themselves in their underwear have gone".


Henry Jenkins

Participatory culture white paper; began with Textual Poachers and TV fans as not just spectators but remixers, recirculators of pop culture. Coming from 80s cultural studies work on resistance; participation and resistance are related concepts but they are also very distinct. We are resistant TO something, participate IN something. Do we define what we are opposing or what we are doing, buildingwhether small scale or large scale communities.

Project New Media Literacies project in LA; MacArthur research hub on youth and participatory politics, asking what motivates young people to be involved in political process. USC  project on Civics, Popular Media & Participatory Culture.

Takes us back to the challenge raised by John Fiske: passage on teenage girl fan of Madonna, who can "win social territory for herself" when she "meets others who share her fantasies and freedom." Many asked how we get from this microsocial level to something more; from the proto or prepolitical to "real politics"?

2nd/3rd wave feminism: many Madonna fans became third wave feminists. & organizations have claimed fan as a political identity; eg Sequential Tarts on women in comics, girl gamer organizations. & images from pop culture are deployed for political purposes: cf Jonathan Gray's recent blog post about the pop culture images coming up in Madison, WI protest lines: bring down the imperial walker, shared cultural capital among diverse protest groups. A new language of politics outside of policy wonks etc.

Harry Potter Alliance (on model of Dumbledore's Army: what would the DA do in our world?). To think of this as fan activism requires new way of saying what that means -- beyond buying stuff to stop a show from being cancelled.

Organization for Transformative Works shoutout! (I am part of this organization :) ) -- is working on a special issue on fan activism & civic engagement.

Fan activist groups are NOT defined as youth groups. Going against that idea that youth and adults have radically different experiences of technology, different generations working together.

Harry Potter Alliance: builds on fannish infrastructure, to go against the real world's Voldemorts: eg big media (Voldemedia), support labor unions against Walmart (Voldemart). Local chapters. Using HP houses as organizations; Jenkins is a loyal Ravenclaw member. Endorsed by JK Rowling; not resistant to the HP narratives though it resists other media orgs including Warner Brothers. "Real World Horcruxes"

Disrtubuted, seemingly leaderless organizations: many organizations like this, from Egyptian revolutionary movement to the Tea Party [I would add: UKUncut]; using popular culture imagery. 

What will happen after the end of the HP movies? Reaching out across other fandoms, asking about a larger political movement of fan activism.

Malcolm Gladwell's critiques of Twitter activism. What Sasha Constanza-Chock calls transmedia activism: taking your cause anywhere and everywhere people are. SCC looks at immigrants rights movements in LA. Team at USC is also looking at DREAM act activism: the idea that Superman is an undocumented immigrant.


Going to Q&A; I am not sure how long my laptop battery is going to hold out!

First question on youth publics in Cairo. The question of so what? So young people are talking about what it means to be a citizen, embedding pop culture in their lifestyles. Her answer (didn't catch her name) is that it is part of new forms of civic socialization. 

Jenkins: Fiske had a 'so what?' & even though we have demonstrated direct connections between cultural engagement & politics we still have that question. The HP alliance was a route into political engagement for young people.

Q: Who actually gets to play in the ballfield of digital media? Which voices don't fade? He speak as a product of post civil rights activist African American theatre movement--plays that are no longer produced 10 years later. How do young people stay engaged now and in the future?

A from Soep: if a young person's 15 minutes of fame happen at 15 in a commentary on NPR, describing difficult social conditions that may not change... youth media organizations have a structural dilemma in "aging out" when participants get too old to be the representative Voice of Youth. Need to transition from learner into producer, editor. Voices not fading can be a problem, when people's lives change & yet stories from their youth remain the first Google search result.

A from Jenkins: maybe politics needs to be more mundane, temporary, disposable, more part of everyday life than the monumental structures of larger scale politics. Creating a remix etc -- might not be remembered 50 years from now, but makes a difference that might start something changing.

Q about class differences: pop culture, mashups etc works better in his experience in more affluent communities. How do youth radio & Dumbledore's Army overlap?

A: Jenkins: some truth to the stereotype that HP activist fans are white middle class youth, but cf Dream Act activism.

[Low battery warning! Alas, the liveblog endeth here...]


No comments