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51.011 - Forging a New Digital Commons: Youth Re-Imagining and Re-Claiming Public Life

Sun, April 7, 3:40 to 5:10pm, Metro Toronto Convention Centre, Floor: 100 Level, Room 104B

Session Type: Invited Speaker Session


Educational researchers, policymakers, and practitioners have long focused their efforts on encouraging youth engagement in civic life. A core assumption of these efforts is that civic life as it exists today is prepared to welcome the issues, identities, and solutions that youth bring to the table. Yet formal democratic institutions have consistently undermined this narrative as adult civic gatekeepers often marginalize or outright ignore youth voices. Instead of continuing to pull folding chairs up to the table of normative civic engagement, young people are increasingly leveraging the affordances of multimodal platforms to create their own digital commons where they raise and disseminate their perspectives. Today, the range of tools that youth can access, and the communicative possibilities of those tools, has expanded exponentially, while the range of forces acting upon their possible “social futures” (New London Group, 1996) have become ever more pronounced – consider the polarized political landscape, the corporate-controlled media culture, and the continued prevalence of systemic racial, social, and economic inequities. This symposium will consider how young people are responding to these forces and ask provocative questions about what the public ‘commons’ can and should look like as we move further into the troubled 21st century. In order to do so, we must draw from multiple disciplinary fields and theoretical traditions, including critical media literacy, participatory politics, and critical computational literacies. The critical media literacy framework involves, “multi-perspectival critical inquiry of popular culture and the culture industries that addresses issues of class, race, gender, sexuality, and power and also promotes the production of alternative counter-hegemonic media” (Kellner & Share, 2007, p. 4). Relatedly, the participatory politics framework explores the interactive, nonhierarchical, peer-based acts through which young people seek to exert both voice and influence on issues of public concern (Cohen & Kahne, 2012). Finally, critical computational literacy (CCL) combines computational thinking with culturally sustaining pedagogy in order to center marginalized points of view and create conditions for young people to break silences, reveal obscured truths, and challenge unjust systems and conditions (Lee & Soep, 2016).

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