Youth media projects matter because they give young people “a voice”. Funders, nonprofits and facilitators emphasise this as their goal; participants celebrate it. And standard-setters expect it: a 2006 guide by the Open Society Institute, a significant early philanthropic backer of youth media in the US, says a key feature is that it “conveys the authentic views and voices of young people”.
But whose view is being conveyed? One academic study looked at a project where young participants could explore any issue of importance to them. A surprisingly large number chose gang culture, even though few were directly affected by this issue. Facilitators, whose role includes helping participants to challenge stereotypical, negative media representations of youth, were in a difficult position. Do they stop them from making films about a certain topic if it appears they’ve chosen it out of a sense of obligation or a need to conform to expectations? Or do they respect this as their authentic voice? Youth voice, it turns out, can be “a double-edged sword”.Continue reading “Mega(phone) motivation”