Who Writes Our Stories?: Critical Digital Literacies & Youth Activism
My research interests are transdisciplinary and primarily focus on race, storytelling, and s/place. Working alongside communities of Color, I also consider education and schooling sites to make meaning. There is a lot of amazing work being done that considers Black Studies and digital scholarship, and so below I focus primarily on digital tools in education.
There is conversation concerning “the digital world” in education. Much concerns social media in the classroom or tools such as SMART boards and Google Drive. Even then, terms such as “digital natives”, which I find extremely problematic, evoke a lack of agency because despite youth (broadly with little context) being categorized as knowledge-holders in digital spaces, they’re still spoken of in deficit ways.
Critical conversations around digital tools and technology look not only at how it’s being used, but how technology is used as a tool of power and by whom. Critical theorists also push us to go beyond a surface level integration of digital tools in classrooms and look at digital space and it’s relationship with out s/places, such as schools (Gitlin & Ingerski, 2018). Garcia, Stamatis, and Kelly (2018) consider the ways that “technology mediates student identities” (p. 404) and others (Garcia, Mirra, Morrell, Martinez, & Scorza, 2015; Mirra, Morrell, & Filipiak, 2018) look more broadly at youth identities, the possibilities in critical digital literacies and youth activism.
I first came to meaningfully think about the possibilities of digital tools, youth, and communities when I came across Youth Radio’s website. I was in a course about Youth Literacies and simultaneously working with youth to understand their literacy practices through Instagram and Snapchat.
“West Side Stories: Gentrification in West Oakland” (Youth Radio Interactive) uses storytelling, art, and interactive mapping to speak to the tensions, layers, and competing interests of gentrification and displacement in West Oakland. Specifically, the mapping features West Oakland’s people, places, and histories.
Not only does this involve transformative work, but it’s work that is authored by whole communities, and features youth participatory action research (YPAR). It challenges preconceptions of who can research the tensions and possibilities of a community and whose voices matter. It offers public access to community members, but also to others so that we may learn.
It pushes me to think of the ways I can work alongside members of my communities to render our cultural artifacts, literacy practices, and the s/places we care about as intentional narratives that reject damage-centeredness (Tuck, 2009).