Inside Books: Joellen Fisherkeller on Youth Media Projects Around the World

Youth
media projects and visual culture is the subject of International Perspectives on Youth Media: Cultures of Production and Education (Peter
Lang).  Edited by Joellen Fisherkeller, an associate professor in Steinhardt’s Department of Media, Culture, and Communication, the book documents and analyzes transnational
 research on youth media production and distribution projects, illuminating the diversity of youth media projects around the world.

Q: How did you come to write this book?

A: My research and teaching focuses on the meaningful roles that different media play in young people’s lives, with an eye toward developing children’s and adolescents’ critical and appreciative understandings about media through educational and community-based projects.  For decades, media educators and youth advocates have argued that young people need to be able to access, analyze, evaluate, and create multiple media so that they can be knowledgeable and skilled participants in local and global contexts. Youth Media projects focus in particular on helping youth be producers of media, often providing youth who are economically and/or socially disadvantaged with technical and intellectual resources that contribute to their abilities to express themselves about personal, social, and cultural issues that matter to them.  That’s a general definition of what constitutes Youth Media.  But over the years, I’ve become aware that Youth Media projects can vary in terms of their particular goals and objectives and their practices and processes due to variations in the needs, interests, and backgrounds of people involved in Youth Media, and due to variations in the social, cultural, economic, and political contexts within which Youth Media operate around the world.  International Perspectives on Youth Media:  Cultures of Production and Education brings together research on a wide variety of Youth Media projects in Brazil, the Middle East, India, South Africa, Singapore, Australia, Scandinavia, Canada, and three different regions of the United States.  It’s important for scholars and educators today to be aware of regional and cultural differences and similarities in a globalized world.

Q: Do you see differences in how youth use media around the globe?  Are there differences in how media is used?

A:  There are differences in how youth use and create media around the world, but there are similarities as well.  This book is not trying to characterize young people’s media uses and creations generally according to region; this book provides case studies of how youth use and create media within the context of specific Youth Media projects.  These projects vary in terms of their purposes and practices, their resources, the kinds of media young people use and create, and the backgrounds and disciplines of the adults who organize and support Youth Media projects.  For example, in the Middle East, young people work with community activists to make films that communicate to a wider public the challenging as well as pleasurable realities of their everyday lives.  Students in an Australian media education program learn how to create video games they would like to play themselves and share with their friends, while also learning to think critically about the function and aesthetics of different game features.  Youth in Gaza, Iraq, and Oakland, CA are using their cell phones to capture raw documentary footage of key events, and then learning how to embed that raw material into analytic news radio podcasts and broadcasts.  A young Native American girl in northern middle America is provided with the resources and support to direct, star in, and narrate a video that explores the meanings of her “Fancy Shawl” dancing, her dress, and where she staged the video, as these relate to her cultural identity and tribal membership.  If you read the book, you’ll learn about these and other examples, and how they demonstrate the meaning and value of Youth Media projects in different locales for different groups of people.

Q:  What did you learn in editing this volume that surprised you?

A:  I was not necessarily surprised when editing this volume, since I anticipated learning about the particularities of regions and cultures where Youth Media projects are implemented, and that there would be different kinds of similarities and differences among these projects.   But what I did learn, while not necessarily surprising, was deeply meaningful to me.  And now I feel connected to a wider network of scholars and educators who care deeply about young people being given opportunities to examine and represent their experiences using a variety of media to communicate with each other and with local and global audiences and publics.  I hope that readers of the volume will appreciate both the scope and depth of the chapters in the book, and also, contact the authors and me with any feedback or comments, questions, ideas.