Further Reflections on Youth Voice, Media, and Political Engagement

The book section written by Henry Jenkins in By Any Media Necessary provides a general and clear framework on the core concepts of youth activism, addressing current cases in the relevant scope. Participatory culture, civic engagement in politics and issues of public concern, civic imagination, politics of circulation, transmedia mobilization, networked practices, stories that matter are among the core issues handled in the book section. The concepts and the cases involving youth activism have reminded me of two concepts discussed in social sciences and education: the first one collective intelligence and the second one critical pedagogy. In this paper, I will try to relate these two concepts to the ideas written in the book section.

Let me start with collective intelligence. In another book written by Jenkins, perhaps his most cited and recognized work, Convergence Culture: Where old and new media collide, he defines collective intelligence and mentions it as one of three related components of the book, media convergence and participatory culture being the other two elements. Coined by Pierre Levy, collective intelligence is based on the idea that none of us can know everything. Since each of us knows something, it is possible to bring our resources together and combine our skills. The definition of collective intelligence is made in the Introduction part of Jenkins’ book. Jenkins is of the opinion that collective intelligence can be seen as an alternative source of media power. The introduction is entitled as “Worship at the Altar of Convergence A New Paradigm for Understanding Media Change”. The collocation “Change in paradigm” led me to think about significant paradigm changes in education. In the older paradigms, students were seen as passive recipients and the teacher was regarded as the mere authority in the class. As opposed to this former paradigm, the new paradigm in media foregrounds active nature of the participants / audience. The same change applies in education as well. To tie the paradigm change with collective intelligence, collaborative learning has become one of the key elements of this educational paradigm change which sets forth that students can learn from each other. The teacher is not the sole authority figure in the classroom. In similar vein, Jenkins emphasizes the importance of peer-to-peer interaction in By Any Media Necessary with regard to youth activism. In addition to peer interaction and learning from peers, there is also the element of creativity which makes youngsters’ activist movements playful ones, unusual and memorable. As mentioned in the book, young activists make use of a wide array of art, skills and genres on a rich range of media platforms. They use pop icons, new symbols, superhero imageries and more creative elements very often in line with imagining alternatives. All of these show that they do not follow a traditional path. Through this creative and inclusive approach, they are, in fact, able to bring dispersed supporters (from firefighters to students) together around a single cause, fighting for social justice and feeling connected to the protest. The experience is rendered meaningful and supporters can identify with those who also have a similar line of thinking. About the meaningfulness aspect related to learning, Ito et al. is quoted as “Learning is most resilient and meaningful when it brings together multiple spheres of a young person’s life. “

Bored of institutional politics, young individuals implement alternative ways of expression despite the common perception that they are detached from politics or apathetic about it as well as other pressing social issues. Speaking from theoretical perspective, their demonstrations and outcries would suit the interpretive standard in the theory of social sciences thanks to the aesthetic appeal involved, which certainly allows more room for creativity. In addition, there is the blend of critical theory with humanistic values of empathy, building bonds and enacting connectedness.

As for the critical pedagogy aspect, the egalitarian nature, amplifying unheard voices, allowing diversity of voices mentioned in the book section also fit very well with the values of critical pedagogy. The bonding established between the supporters is also said to be good for marginalized and oppressed groups. This is another aspect that relates appropriately to critical pedagogy philosophy. On page 29, Jenkins says that political awakening requires understanding those who live under different conditions. Critical pedagogy, with Paulo Freire being the most prominent name, is based on critical theory which encourages a just society where people can have control over their lives economically and politically. If / when applied in class, critical pedagogical values encourage students to voice their ideas, have critical consciousness and use their knowledge for the betterment of the society correcting injustice. Students are not regarded as mere listeners but producers of knowledge and teachers are not authorities but transformative intellectuals as Giroux calls them. For Freire, uncovering reality and taking action / intervening are crucial elements of education. In curriculum, there is room for using authentic materials like newspapers and television so that students can relate their knowledge to realities of real life. The material is beyond the course books and the style of teaching and learning is meaningful and beneficial for the society with an emphasis on fairness, which overlaps with the egalatarian nature of protests mentioned by Jenkins in By Any Media Necessary.

Overall, Jenkins has an optimist tone, believing in the creativity of the youth and their role as active social agents in the society. In Convergence Culture, he says that “we are learning how to use that power through our day-to-day interactions within convergence culture.”. The stories told throughout the book By Any Media Necessary overlap very well with this statement which could be complemented with a well-known quote: “Imagination knows no boundaries.”

written by A. Dereli as Response Paper I (for COMM 720 Week 2–2016–2017 Academic Year)

References:

Jenkins, H (2016). “Youth Voice, Media, and Political Engagement. Introducing the Core Concepts in Jenkins, H., Shresthova, S., Gamber-Thompson, L., & Zimmerman, A. By any media necessary: The new youth activism. NYU Press.

Jenkins, H. (2006). Convergence culture: Where old and new media collide. New York: New York University Press.

Some related useful links:

http://newlearningonline.com/literacies/chapter-1/jenkins-on-collective-intelligence-and-convergence-culture

http://newlearningonline.com/literacies/chapter-1/jenkins-on-collective-intelligence-and-convergence-culture (A video speech delivered by Jenkins himself -17 minutes-)

citizenmediaseries.org/2016/06/08/by-any-media-necessary-the-new-youth-activism/

http://henryjenkins.org/2012/07/participatory_politics_new_med.html

http://www.lse.ac.uk/businessAndConsultancy/LSEEnterprise/pdf/YouthParticipationDemocraticLife.pdf (a comprehensive booklet on the related topic)

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