Youth Voices Explores The LA River


Only in a span of one year there has been quite a noticeable shift in digital culture amongst teenagers in Los Angeles. Through my experience of working with high school students, texting has been, and arguably still is the dominant mode of communication. However, Facebook has really gained momentum. The change is quite apparent in a computer lab where Facebook is open on almost every computer and phones are kept in pockets or purses.

When it comes to Youth Voices and working with a new group, this trend serves to be quite complimentary to the project. Students are quite aware and experienced using Web 2.0 platforms and have a basic digital literacy and knowledge of the its language - communicating via emails, registering to a social media site, logging in, uploading media, and, for some, basic functions of html and embedding media onto a blog.

I make this observation in light of my experience this week with the new Student Producers from Los Angeles Leadership Academy, a charter high school in Lincoln Heights. These students are about to embark on an exploration of the L.A. River to help tell its history around the current issues that surround what many Angelenos claim to be a 52-mile storm drain system. In preparing for the course, students must have accessible email addresses and Google accounts, whom many of which is already the case.

It's nice to know that the hardship of managing 20 new students through the process of registering, checking emails, logging in, and uploading media has become a thing of the past and that the digital divide is perhaps becoming more narrow.

Of course, when one obstacles ceases to exit, another can perhaps present itself. In this case, students still lack a critical level of understanding the affordances and implications of these new technologies. And a platform like Facebook raises a much more complex system of relationships and representation than text messaging. A question like how does a site like Facebook impact you, your identity, and perhaps your relationship to the world around you presents issues that have perhaps not been explored. Today's student lacks the awareness and articulation of how various types of media and messages (both consumed and generated) impact these young people on a daily basis.

These issues will be investigated more thoroughly through this installment of Departures: LA River. The exploration of the river which flows through many of these students' communities can offer them an opportunity to deconstruct their impressions and discover how the river best relates to them. They will physically travel down to the river, documenting their experiences and perceptions while presenting their authentic voices. Through the acquisition of media production tools they will be able to present their world to others.

Come back next week to meet these student producers!

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