Focus & Methodology

When films first appeared at the beginning of the 20th century, Walter Benjamin regarded mass reproduction of art as a significant development that would deeply affect people’s everyday lives and could bring about profound social changes[1]. Now – a century later – it is not only possible to view films at a remote mountain village in India as Arjun Appadurai describes[2]; shooting, cutting and publishing films are accessible techniques to a significant part of the population, mainly in the Western and emerging economies of the world. With the mass circulation of mobile phones with a internet connection and also camcorders and digital filming, editing and publishing of sound and image, as well as the possibility to easily combine written, pictorial and acoustic information/ modes of representation on Video-Blogs and digital social networks has changed the notion of ‘film’.

Even if this type of media is not totally “new”[3], the wide use of digital video-editing technologies has significant implications for schools and other youth spaces, socially and pedagogically[4]. Digital video-editing and video-sharing technologies open new possibilities for political participation[5], as well as for peace and intercultural dialogue[6]. The employment of digital technologies transforms childhood and youth[7], expands imagination,[8] embellish and expand teaching-learning processes and question existing research methodologies and scientific understandings[9]. What is more: digital technologies and ICTs (information and communication technology) in general, are of high priority at the European level and are addressed by community policies regarding productivity, innovation, creativity and competitiveness of all industry and service sectors with significant benefits for European citizens. Of course, these technologies also entail potential risks on many levels (e.g. sexual abuse, online bullying, the viewing of violent or hateful content, divulging personal information online, physical and psychological health-related problems etc.[10]).

Research on digital media is thus booming. However the methodological aspects of research projects focusing on youth and learning via digital technologies in different areas of the world are insufficiently problematised in the literature. Qualitative research that explores the use of digital technologies by young people from around the globe as seen from the young people’s perspectives is limited[11]. Statistic surveys such as by the http://www.comscore.com/ map the global terrain of digital technologies usage but do not shed much light on the intra-psychological and inter-personal processes of editing, designing, viewing, commending or sharing audio-visual materials from a first-person point of view.   The epistemological and empirical insufficiency with regard to research from young people’s perspectives and use of digital media technologies in combination with concomitant pressing social issues (marginalization, unemployment, migration of youth) make research that addresses young people’s agency in their lives, communities, and society an imperative.

Reconstructing a first-person point of view is important especially when referring to young people who reside in marginalized urban spaces and have not received the benefits of formal schooling. For democratic policy making, it is necessary that young people’s voices are listened and paid attention to. A first-person perspective might also reveal innovative aspects of situated digital media usage and (sub-) culturally specific learning practices that a researcher, a policy maker or even a software designer would have never thought of. Digital video-editing technologies can be used in research themselves – enabling young people to actively participate in collecting, editing, interpreting and presenting data about themselves, thus articulating their perspectives. The DIGIT-M-ED Research Staff Exchange Scheme aims to respond to these challenges.

On a second level DIGIT-M-ED aims to develop understandings of how digital video- capturing, video-editing and video-sharing technologies have brought about fundamental, perhaps, revolutionary changes in how learning can be transformed for marginalized children and youth. Digital media and technologies create learning opportunities in and outside the traditional schooling borders, which can expand, enrich and challenge education and policymaking especially for young people who have “failed” at school. In this frame DIGIT-M-ED will explore how children and young people from marginalized urban spaces with little access to official schooling employ digital video-editing and video-sharing technologies as to self-initiate and organize learning activities that are purposeful as seen from their perspectives. DIGIT-M-ED will also explore how the self-initiated learning activities that involve digital video-editing technologies correspond with identity formation or other developmental psychological tasks that could be of importance to the young people given their everyday life contexts[12].

One of the planned activities is a small-scale research project that explores the employment of digital video-editing media by a small number of children and young people from marginalized urban spaces in India, Brazil and Greece, with the focus on learning and development as described above. DIGIT-M-ED will explore young people’s motives, sense-making processes, interpersonal interactions and practices while they use various media to produce and circulate visual and audio-visual data in one or two marginalized neighbourhoods in New Delhi, São Paulo and Athens, respectively. The methodology will involve ethnographic participant observation of fifteen young men and women on a daily basis for a period of a month, as well as multimodal analyses of the video-editing media that they use outside school settings (i.e. in the street, at home, at work, in free-time or after-school centres for young people). As part of the interviews young people will commend on the data collected through participant observation. The research design also involves at least one open-ended interview with each of those young people, as well as at least one interviews with a peer and/or involved adult (minimum number of interviews per country 30). As a further, optional task, young people will be invited to make short films about how they use their favourite digital technology in their everyday lives and these films will be analysed in addition to all other data. All this data will be collected, transcribed, coded, analysed, and compared following reconstructive, interpretative and ethnographic approaches.[14]  The research will to take place in the neighbourhoods Freguesia do Ó and Butantã of São Paulo, Munirka of New Delhi and Kypseli in Athens. The main research languages will be Portuguese, Greek, Hindi, Punjabi and other local languages spoken in New Delhi.

The focus of the proposed investigation will be the digital capturing, editing and circulating of audio-visual data, although the digital technologies employed by young people in marginalized urban spaces differ across the geographic areas in question (from smart phones in Athens and tablet computers, such as the Aakash in India, to PCs that are made available at internet cafes and community centres in Brazil). The research question and design are based on three approaches: a) Vygotskian and post-Vygotskian approaches to learning and development (developed by the Russian team), b) multi-modal analysis of digital technologies (developed by the UK team) and c) anthropological research with young people/ videography (developed by the German team).


[1] BENJAMIN, W., 2008. The work of art in the age of its technological reproducibility, and other writings on media, edit/transl. JENNINGS, M., DOHERTY, B., LEVIN, T., & JEPHCOTT, E., Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press.

[2] APPADURAI, A. 1996. Modernity at large: Cultural dimensions of globalization, Minneapolis and London, University of Minnesota Press.

[3] Cf. Zielinski, S. 2006. Deep time of the media: Toward an archaeology of hearing and seeing by technical means, Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

[4] Buckingham, D. 2003. Media education: Literacy, learning, and contemporary culture, Cambridge, UK and Malden, MA: Polity Press; YELLAND, N. 2006. Shift to the Future: Rethinking Learning with New Technologies in Education, New York, Routledge.

[5] DAHLBERG, L. 2011. Re-constructing digital democracy: An outline of four ‘positions’. New Media & Society, 13,6, 855-872; JENKINS, H., CLINTON, K., PURUSHOTMA, R., ROBISON, A. J. & WEIGEL, M. 2009. White Paper: Confronting the Challenges of Participatory Culture: Media Education for the 21st Century. In: MacArthur Foundation ed.: MacArthur Foundation Reports on Digital Media and Learning; KARAGANIS, J. ed. 2007. Structures of Participation in Digital Culture, New York: Social Science Research Council; Terranova, T. 2004. Network Culture: Politics for the information age, London: Pluto.

[6] WULF, C. 2006. Anthropologie kultureller Vielfalt: Interkulturelle Bildung in Zeiten der Globalisierung, Bielefeld, transcript; WULF, C. & MERKEL, C. eds. 2002. Globalisierung als Herausforderung der Erziehung: Theorien, Grundlagen, Fallstudien, Münster: Waxmann.

[7] Buckingham, D. 2000. After the Death of Childhood: Growing up in the Age of Electronic Media, Cambridge, UK and Malden, MA: Polity Press; Livingstone, S. 2002. Young people and new media: Childhood and the changing media environment, London: Sage; Montgomery, K.C. 2007. Generation Digital: Politics, Commerce, and Childhood in the Age of the Internet, MA: The MIT Press.

[8] HÜPPAUF, B. & WULF, C. eds. 2009. Dynamics and Performativity of Imagination: The Image between the Visible and the Invisible, New York: Routledge.

[9] Cf: DENISSEN, J., NEUMANN, L. & VAN ZALK, M. 2010. How the internet is changing the implementation of traditional research methods, people’s daily lives, and the way in which developmental scientists conduct research. International Journal of Behavioral Development, 34, 564-575; HINE, C. 2000. Virtual ethnography, London and Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE. For a broader discussion cf. also on globalization and ethnography FAUBION, J. D. & MARCUS, G. E. 2009. Fieldwork is not what it used to be: learning anthropology’s method in a time of transition, Ithaca, Cornell University Press.

[10] Caplana S., Williamsb D. & Yee N. (2009). Problematic internet use and psychosocial well-being among MMO players. Computers in Human Behavior, 25, 6, 1312-1319; Hughes. D. M. The use of new communications and information technologies for sexual exploitation of women and children. Hastings Women’s Law Journal, 13, 1, 129-148; Livingstone, S, & Haddon, L (2009) EU Kids Online: Final report. LSE, London: EU Kids Online (EC Safer Internet Plus Programme Deliverable D6.5, available online: http://eprints.lse.ac.uk/24372/

[11] For a general discussion cf. Livingstone, S. (2003) Children’s use of the internet: Reflections on the emerging research agenda. New Media & Society, 5 (2), 147-166. Cf. also a few excellent qualitative studies, e.g. BOELLSTORFF, T. 2008. Coming of age in Second Life: an anthropologist explores the virtually human, Princeton, Princeton University Press; Hollingworth, S., Allen, K., Kuyok, A., & Williams, K. (2009). The influence of new media technologies used in learning on young people’s career aspirations. Final Report to Becta. Institute for Policy Studies in Education, London Metropolitan University, available online: http://dera.ioe.ac.uk/1456/

[12] Cf. RUEHLE, H. 2009. Generation Internet: Digital Natives auf der Suche nach Identität, Norderstadt: GRIN.

[14] Cf. Bohnsack, R., Nentwig-Gesemann, I., & Nohl, A. M. 2001. Die dokumentarische Methode und ihre Forschungspraxis: Grundlagen qualitativer Sozialforschung, Opladen: Leske + Budrich; COLEMAN, G. E. 2010. Ethnographic approaches to digital media, Annual Rev. Anthropology, 39, 487-505; JEWITT, C. 2009. The Routledge handbook of multimodal analysis, London/New York: Routledge; Livingstone, S. & Lemish, D. 2001. Doing comparative research with children and young people. In: Livingstone, S. and Bovill, M., eds. Children and their changing media environment: a European comparative study (pp. 31-50), Mahwah: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

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