logical positivism and chivalry | Main | the press and civic engagement

July 07, 2006

youth media and the audience problem (revisited)

I'm interviewing adults who help youth to make digital media (videos, podcasts, online newspapers)--and also some of the kids who actually do this work--to find out what kinds of audiences they want to reach and how satisfied they are with their impact. (Some background here.) Yesterday, I interviewed the leader of an important nonprofit that trains kids to make documentaries. She said that youth in her program are encouraged to think about their audience from the beginning of their projects. At first, they want to reach "everyone," but then they "fine-tune" their goals to be more realistic and to enhance their impact on their communities. They are less concerned, she said, with the number of viewers than with "the kind of conversations" that they provoke.

The youth in this program are "very eager to get an audience" and to provoke "public discussions," because showing their work makes it "real"; it provides "evidence to the kids themselves" that they have achieved something significant.

Left to their own devices, adult audiences usually ask unhelpful questions, such as: "Why did you choose this topic?" Or "Do you want to be a professional film-maker?" The youth have begun to circulate better questions in advance, such as: "What can we do about the problem that you have presented in your video?" Or, "What were the strongest and weakest parts of the documentary?" Adults like to be guided in this way.

Most of this discussion and feedback occurs in face-to-face settings. A good example was a public screening of a youth-made video about gentrification, attended by academic experts, activists, and some of the kids' parents and friends. The discussion was very rich and rewarding for the young film-makers. Overall, my interviewee thought that youth were both satisfied and dissatisfied with their audience--glad for the feedback they receive, but not fully satisfied by their impact on their communities.

Posted by peterlevine at July 7, 2006 09:42 AM

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