Youth Media Ethnographic Report

This is an ethnographic report from my field notes on my youth media experience this semester.  

After having taken Youth Media now, it is clear how teachers and students have such an important relationship.  Growing up I didn’t appreciate the relationships I formed with my teachers over the years and I regret not understanding it until later on.  A positive of this was that we were able to first-hand experience this as we worked closely with the Building 21 students throughout the semester.  Whether it was going to them at their school or the students coming to Muhlenberg College, we were able to accomplish a great deal.  A term that I feel that relates to this that we discussed all semester was a pedagogy.  As Soep and Chavez discussed in the reading Collegial Pedagogy the word pedagogy refers to the way in which teaching is achieved as a profession. There were multiple instances throughout my meetings with the photography group with Building 21 students where I felt this theme come up.  This idea that we are creating something together is a major theme that was displayed throughout the semester.  I specifically remember going outside with my group and letting them find what most interested them for this project.  Once they felt that they had some control of a project they didn’t know where to start, I saw major passion and progress.  

An example of something I experienced while collaborating on youth media projects with Building 21 students was how they did not trust Emily and I at first, but by the end they were so excited to show us their final projects.  The analysis for this field notes refers back to my last analysis of my field notes.  This first trip to Building 21 perfectly shows how Chapter 1 and Chapter 9 of Community-Based Multiliteracies & Digital Media Projects: Questioning Assumptions and Exploring Realities.  We spoke with a co-editor of the book, Heather Pleasants.  When we spoke with Heather we focused on finding our voice in our fieldnote writing.  We discussed how conversation comes into play as a resource for us to consider in considering who we are in the stories that we are telling.  We also talked about circling three events or interactions that are most relevant to our research question.  This comes from Professor Calarco’s reading.  The focus for this week is on “the value of youth voice”. Once we realize what our role in all of this really is we can make a stronger connection with the students and their projects.  We each have a ‘position’ with this digital media project.  Maintaining communication with these students is the most challenging aspect of these meetings.  We are trying to make a connection with them and motivate them to want to do great on their projects, but some of them are just not interested.  This reading helps give us ideas on how to move along.  We have to get the Building 21 students to trust us and then we can create strong communication.  By maintaining this strong communication, we can strengthen our relationships.  

Some themes, patterns, or issues that I identified from my field notes are how the Building 21 students didn’t seem to care about their projects at first.  For example, I noticed in the beginning that when the students didn’t understand the theme (The Heart of Healing), they weren’t interested in pursuing any sort of media that exhibited it. When students are confused they move away from whatever is confusing them.  This is why teachers are such an important part of the youth media culture. They are able to come in and support the students in being able to trust them and trust themselves to do the best they can be.   This idea of being able to lean on one another for support is what gets us to the finish line.  This is what the challenge is all about.  Whether this is through motivation or support, this theme is what makes a teacher’s role so vital.  By pushing each other to produce the best work that we can make, makes these students media makers.  Whether it was analyzing different methods of pedagogy that helped youth media students or creating unique media work, there was one goal.  That goal was to create something.  We accomplished that goal together and that is something I know I won’t ever forget. I remember watching a video about graffiti earlier in the semester that exhibited how youth media doesn’t just end when the project is completed.  There is an enormous amount of community engagement, which the youth brings out of the community through their voice.  These Building 21 students wouldn’t have had this opportunity without us and vice versa.  That is why these relationships are so important in the creation of youth media.  

Some things that integrated in multimedia elements (photos, video, audio, drawings) are the photos that the students took with me throughout the semester.  I was able to get some experience in photography this past summer when a friend of mine was able to teach me.  It was such a privilege to be able to apply these skills when teaching the Building 21 students.  Something I noticed in the final interviews with the students at the school was how proud they were of themselves.  One student in particular, Zander, was very impressed with how much she achieved in a such a short amount of time.  The end exhibit was an opportunity I don’t believe these students will ever have again in their life.  A moment where they get to show off something that they worked on at this coming of age (youth) time for them is so rare.  I remember creating a similar project in high school and since then I have never been as proud of any school related project.  It is bitter sweet.  I wish there were more opportunities for the youth to be able to create art in this form.  I shared such a special relationship with these students even if they don’t feel the same way. I will never forget seeing Owen’s face at the exhibition as his mother took a picture of him in front of his media artwork.  It was priceless.  These students get to go home knowing that they are media makers.  They are creators.  They are influencers.  

This is an account that synthesizes and shows what I experienced, observed, and heard while collaborating on youth media projects with Building 21 students.  

Building 21 Exhibition

After working with the Building 21 students with their digital media projects all semester it was an amazing opportunity to see the final forms on display at the Art Gallery.  Walking into the CA, I was in awe as I saw the Building 21 students walking around their projects with smiles on their faces.  It was great to see the Muhlenberg Community come together with the Building 21 students and families to support the projects.  It was very interesting to see another art gallery set up with what seemed to be a professional artist as this showed the Building 21 students how special this opportunity was.  I don’t think the students understand that Muhlenberg College students will be walking through the CA seeing these amazing projects until January.  I was so happy to see the students I worked with standing in front of their projects while their family and friends took pictures.  Some people I could tell were confused by the theme, but once they spoke to others who were viewing the art the understood and were impressed with the final projects.  These students worked hard all semester, whether it was staying in their school or coming to Muhlenberg, to get their voices heard.

My favorite part of the exhibition was seeing my friends come support me and the Building 21 students.  They were amazed at how impressive the art gallery was.  Whether it was the podcast, photographs, or videos, the audience was thoroughly interested and it made the Building 21 students much more proud of their work.  Students were coming up to me thanking them.  That was a very special feeling.  It was a very special moment for them to see their hard work come together for others to see.  I could tell that they were very proud.  I wish that more Building 21 students could come, but I understand that they needed rides there and that might of been difficult.  I was happily surprised to hear that there is going to be a website set up with all of the content from the students.  This is extremely important for anyone who wasn’t able to attend or hear the podcast.

It was great to see the class and professors there.  It was great to see Mr. Ward and other Building 21 staff there to support their school as well.  There were multiple art exhibitions going on which helped the attendance, along with the food and wine.  Overall, I found this event to be extremely inspiring as the Building 21 students reached their goal.  They were able to make themselves media makers, while getting their voice heard through what the “the hear of healing” meant to them.  Their impact through their projects exemplified the hard work and creativity that they are capable of.




Creating youth voice throughout media

Having met with the Building 21 students a couple times now has given me the chance to look back at our meetings and what has come from them.  I have observed things I didn’t know I was going to even notice, but from our class discussions we have talked about how to take notes when we are in the presence of the students.   I feel that my group has always done a great job of engaging with the students to make sure that they are motivated to complete their project and learn from us.  We both bring unique perspectives to the table when the Muhlenberg students meet with the Building 21 students.  It’s interesting how the structure of the meetings has changed since the first time.  When they first came to us, I felt that we were well organized and the class time was used well.  Everyone was prepared and we were very successful.  I didn’t know which group I was going to be with.  I don’t have a ton of background in editing or filming.  I feel that I have challenged myself to be open to new things just as these Building 21 students have tried to learn new things themselves.

The students are all at different levels in their projects and I feel that this makes it difficult to work with all of them.  We tried to break up our time with each student, but there just isn’t enough time.  I found it inspiring when a girl in our group wasn’t sure where to start her project and by the time we had to leave to back to Muhlenberg she had a great start.  She filmed some scenes and set a pace of what she wanted to get done.  She left that meeting more prepared for the future and that is what’s most important.


This photo has a quote about how education is how to prepare for the future and that preparation starts today.  I feel that how we help the students of Building 21 today will help them evolve in their future expression.

In the reading, Many Versions of Masculine: An Exploration of Boys’ Identity Formation through Digital Storytelling in an Afterschool Program, the idea of expressing oneself was thoroughly described.  I feel that being with these students has provide evidence of how students can express themselves in numerous ways.  Each student brought their own skills through using the media in the class.  After watching the practice interviews it was obvious that each student had their own individuality that was unique to themselves.  I feel that media is a tool to help express these characteristics and skills.   I know my role is to help them achieve this goal and I feel that I can accomplish this with the Building 21 students. I am there to motivate and assist them to help them bring out their voice.  Overall, I have truly enjoyed the interactions with the Building 21 students.  I have made real relationships with these students and have learned a great deal from them.


pic from


“Believe in something. Even if it means sacrificing everything”.

Over the last few years the NFL has been talked about in a negative way concerning the disappearance of Colin Kaepernick.  Colin was the quarter back for the San Francisco 49ers and has been blackballed from the NFL for kneeling during the national anthem.  Over the last month, the conversation has come back up because Nike has released an advertisement with Colin Kaepernick as the head of the campaign.  This has had the entire country using media to voice their opinions.

Whether it is Nike consumers using social media to express their disapproval of Nike or supporters of the campaign, the voices are being heard.


Soep and Chavez’s notion of “converged literacy”


For this week’s blog, I am selecting the video about street art.  This video directly relates to Soep and Chavez’s notion of “converged literacy” because street art is viewed as a problem when it is just a way for teenagers to have a voice. What I understand “converged literacy” as resources to claim and exercise the rights to use media to promote justice, variously defined.  It should be viewed as a positive thing than a negative thing because it brings the community together and gives the youth hope.  These teenagers want a new approach to promoting their learning.  For example, it can be a website that features audio, graphics, digital photos, and video clips.  Literacy as described in the reading is “a process of making, reading, understanding, and critiquing texts”(21). “Converged literacy” to me,  is what teenagers have as a right to voice their opinion without being judged.  They are a citizen in this world just like any body else.  Street art is done in a “public space” just like when a teenager uses social media to use their voice.  Making street art isn’t what gives the youth a voice.  It is what they are creating and how it speaks to others that conveys what they are learning.  Street art is viewed negatively because it is mostly seen as graffiti or vandalism.  The public puts it down because they don’t think the youth deserves a voice.  How can the youth leverage public interest in “their” stories through this form of art/voice?

Goodman Chapter 1

Goodman’s chapter 1: Framing the Inner-City Teenager: Criminals, Consumers, and the Literacy Gap discusses many interesting points about inner-city teenagers.  One theme in particular that was very interesting to me was how marketers look at young trendsetters in the disaffected minority teenager.  They are especially more popular among the urban black males.  I find this so interesting because these teenagers lives are so difficult and in a way they are the ones marketers look at to find the next best thing for fashion, music, sports.  The marketers are drawing upon the teenagers street and prison experiences because they have a raw and irreverent hip-hop culture that is so appealing to them. This group of teenagers has “a major impact in the United States in a range of industries, including apparel, footwear, soft drinks, packaged foods, personal care products, and all facets of the entertainment industry”(Packaged Facts, 2000).  I had no idea that teenagers were spending $155 billion at the turn of the millennium and that marketers were so consumed with the teenagers influence.