Recommendation 12: Engage young people in developing the digital information and communication capacities of local communities
This is probably one that’s closest to my heart, and the most organic entry point for me.
In the full description of the recommendation, the Knight Foundation sets the scene for a “Geek Corps” that assigns post-college volunteers to public institutions to help them leverage digital media technologies. There already exists something like this, a program of which I proudly call myself an alum: the Digital Arts Service Corps (formerly the CTC VISTA Project).
But when I first read the recommendation, my mind gravitated toward youth rather than young adults. More specifically, first-generation youth in minority communities. Most of my experience in media has been imagining how to leverage everyday tools for media creation by sources that are not traditionally seen as information providers. This has ranged from mobile media creation by immigrant communities and Millennials to my current position as the citizen journalism coordinator for The Rapidian, a hyperlocal news site for Grand Rapids, Mich.
When we look at the purpose of information, it’s to acquaint communities with the intricacies of issues and phenomena that have a direct effect on them. There are patches of media that serve youth, that serve immigrants but there is a whole swath that straddles the line between cultures, and youth has proven to be a volatile time across the board.
So my proposal: Why not look at how we can create low-demand platforms and leverage tools to empower first-generation youth to be the news sources for their communities? This serves many functions:
- Depending on the density of any minority population, the most common news sources tend to serve up international news, and it’s most likely a regional news group that aggregates those stories. What is less common is cultural news within the community or contextualizing local issues for that minority community.
- This draws more from my own experience, but first-generation youth struggle with understanding where their cultural heritages begin and end, how they flow into one another. It is a nebulous territory, perhaps even moreso for invisible minorities. Filtering local news for themselves and a minority community might help first-generation youth contextualize how they fit in the world.
- Community media also leaves room for expression. Based on the stories that youth choose to pursue or how they present an event (both in reporting and information presentation), it might also give communities insight into their youth.
For youth in foreign-language households, they often act as translators for their guardians and yet straddle that line between being American and being a minority. Culture can be an uneasy crossroads, and there is a lot of insecurity accented from all sides when it comes to picking identity. Figuring out a way to create community media that is low demand can provide youth with a means for expression and help them contextualize their quandary while providing information to an underserved community, both in evaluating it from that community’s lens as well as providing insight into their next generation.
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Denise is the citizen journalism coordinator for The Rapidian, a participatory news project powered by the Grand Rapids community. You can read more of her musings on technology and storytelling/journalism on her blog and at The Rapidian’s dev blog.