Maybe it’s because I’m teaching a course on research methods and working as a youth media producer at the same time, but I’m once again struck by another connection/overlap between these fields.
More and more researchers take interest in making their methods “collaborative.” Instead of regarding study participants as “subjects” (or objects) of analysis, scholars who want communities to benefit directly from both a project’s methods and outcomes seek ways to “partner” with young people and others as co-researchers. Check out Maria Torre and Michelle Fine’s essay on this topic, as well as Ernest Morrell’s Becoming Critical Researchers and Jeff Duncan Andrade’s Utilizing Carino.
All of these university-based researchers have worked with their students as inquiry partners to create videos and other media projects that hold merit on several levels: as art works, social archives, resources for advocacy, and–oh, this too–research documents. There’s a long history of researchers using media/technology for data gathering, but what I’m talking about is something different–a practice that’s not about an analyst getting better at accumulating data, but instead about community members exploiting media/technology to produce meanings and generate impact–to change the story so often told about them, in spite of them, or even, supposedly, on their behalf.
Predictably, researchers are already endlessly debating the merits, problems, and scandals associated with the idea that youth media production can function as research. But what maybe folks aren’t so much working on is the value and place for this stuff in the media world itself, on public, community-supported, user-generated, and commercial converged media outlets. Also, given that Participant Action Research (associated with education) and Community-Based Participatory Research (associated with public health) have been around for some time, how have these methods transformed as a result of (relatively) newly available appliances, platforms, and distribution channels as well as the normalization of near constant self-documentation and digital surveillance of young lives?