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Fan cultures exemplify this, as do studies of how real-life audiences talk about and use media Buckingham, ; Williams, ; Silverstone, ; Scannell, ; Radway, But today we are called on to participate in digital media culture in new ways. As digitalization has changed the nature of media production, we have not only become more involved and active in our media use, but our interaction with digital media has allowed others to interact with us in new and sometimes troubling ways.
This is the paradox of the participatory condition, and it shapes how youth media culture and education are connected today. To begin with, the pointy end of the participatory paradox has to do with the way that digital media cultures allow others, including corporations, governments, and predatory individuals, to monitor, survey, coordinate, and guide our activities as never before.
Cambridge Cultural Social Studies
With our data footprint, states, political parties, media, toy, and technology companies as well as health, insurance, and a host of other industries become data aggregation units that map and monitor youth behavior to interact with, brand, and modify this behavior for profitable ends. Big data enables the production of complex algorithms that produce what Wendy Chun , p. The American former military contractor and dissident Edward Snowden draws our attention to this universe in the documentary CitizenFour , which tells his story, and makes clear that instead of governments and corporations being accountable to us, we are now, regularly and without knowing it, accountable to them Snowden, Compounding these concerns, strangers can now access youth in ways that magnify the potential damage done by the pointy end of the participatory paradox.
Fears about stranger danger and cyberbullying have been especially acute in recent years, and while these fears are not new Poyntz, a , they have been central to panicked reactions among parents, educators, and others wary of youth media culture. These fears are often connected to worries about online content that young people now access, including vast troves of pornography available at the click of a button, as well as worrying online sites that promote hate, terrorism, and the radicalization of youth.
The actual merits of concerns about who is accessing youth and what content they are accessing are sometimes difficult to gauge; nonetheless, it remains the case that for the foreseeable future, one of the fundamental issues shaping relationships between youth, media culture, and education is how and through what means youth are produced and made ready to participate in contemporary promotional and surveillance cultures—particularly when this happens for the benefit of people and institutions that exercise immense and often dubious power in young lives.
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On the other end of the participatory paradox is a second issue shaping youth, media culture, and learning. While network societies produce new risk conditions like those noted previously for teenagers, digital media undoubtedly have enabled new forms of creative participation and media production that are changing how youth agency and activism operate.
Mobile phones, cameras, editing platforms, and distribution networks have become more easily accessible for young people across the global North and South in recent years, and as this has happened, youth have gained opportunities to create, circulate, collaborate, and connect with others to address civic issues and matters of broad personal and public concern in ways that simply have not been available in the past.
Since the mids, online media worlds have emerged as counterenvironments that afford teenagers a rich and inviting sphere of digitally mediated experiences to explore their imaginations, hopes, and desires Giroux, But the skills and networks that teens nurture online can be publicly relevant Boyd, ; Ito et al. These practices extend a history of youth actions wherein culture and cultural texts have been drawn on to contest politics and power including issues of gender, class, race, sexuality, and ability and matters of public concern including climate change and the rights of indigenous communities.
More generally, across a range of youth communities, peer networks, and affinity associations, participatory media cultures are enabling levels of engagement, circulation, and cultural production by young people that are altering relationships between youth creative acts and political life. Kahne et al. Examples include consumer activism e. In addition to politically mobilized youth and youth drawn into mediated politics through cultural pastimes, there is evidence that youth connections to politics are being nurtured further by a diverse range of community youth media initiatives and groups that have emerged in cities across the global North and South over the past 20 years Poyntz, b , ; Asthana, ; Tufte et al.
Such community groups are part of a response to the risk conditions that shape contemporary life.
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They are crucial to negotiating citizenship in highly mediated cultures and for addressing digital divides to equip young people with the resources and networks necessary to manage and respond to experiences of change, injustice, violence, and possibility. Community youth media production groups are part of an informal cultural learning sector that is an increasingly significant part of the work of provision for socially excluded youth.
These groups are of many types, but they are symptomatic of a participatory media culture in which new possibilities and new opportunities have arisen to nurture youth creativity and political action. How to foster these developments through media education and the challenges confronting these efforts represents the third major issue shaping connections between youth, media culture, and learning today. At the same time, the challenges facing media literacy education are significant.
For instance, the massive and relentless turn to instrumental forms of technical and creative learning in the service of job markets and competitive global positioning in formal schooling has mitigated the impact of critical media education. Over the past two decades, a broad set of changes in schooling environments around the world have increasingly put a premium on preparing teenagers to be globally competitive, employable subjects McDougal, In this context, the lure of media training in the service of work initiatives and labor market preparation is strong; thus, there has been a tendency in school and community-based media projects and organizations to focus on questions of culture and industry know-how i.
These developments have led to efforts to redefine media education in the English curriculum in the United Kingdom, in ways that discourage critical media analysis and production Buckingham, Poyntz has indicated elsewhere how this orientation shapes the projects of some community media groups working with young people, but the upshot is that instrumental media learning has come to complicate and sometimes frustrate how media literacy education is used to intervene in relationships among youth, media culture, and learning Livingstone, ; Sefton-Screen, This situation has been complicated further as the field of media literacy education has evolved to become a global discourse composed of a range of sometimes contradictory practices, modalities, objectives, and traditions McDougall, The globalization of media literacy education has been a welcome development and is no doubt a consequence of the globalization of communication systems and the intensification of consumerism among young people around the world.
This has happened as efforts have emerged to weave media literacy education into disparate education systems and media institutions Poyntz, These and similar developments have ensured that media literacy education remains a contested field of objectives and meanings. While this can be interesting for academics, it may be less than encouraging for young people, educators, and others eager to draw on media education to affect contemporary relationships between youth, media culture, and learning. And let it be noted that the impact of these developments is not only relevant to the ways that youth negotiate media culture, but also to the future of democracy itself.
Media cultures have come to play a significant role in the way that young people go about making meaning in the world; this is especially true of how knowledge is shared and acquired. As a result, media are part of the continual shaping and reshaping of what learning resources look like.
Both inside and outside the classroom, young people are increasingly able, even expected, to utilize the vast number of resources now available to them. Yet, many of these resources now foster worry rather than learning. The project of media education is not without its own set of challenges and contradictions, including those highlighted in this article.
But it remains indispensable if educators, parents, and researchers are to support young people in navigating learning environments and imagining democratic futures. Parts of this article have been adapted from Hoechsmann et al. Bond, E. Childhood, mobile technologies, and everyday experiences.
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