Dr Shakuntala Banaji: New media, old inequalities: Approaching youth, creative politics and digital media across social class, gender and geography

You are welcome to join this invited Lecture on Monday 9th October, 4.15 – 5.30pm (followed by book launch & drinks reception), LT4 The Diamond, University of Sheffield.

Over the past seventeen years my research around young people, politics and creativity has interrogated the role and affordances of new and emerging digital media in processes of social change. From refugee children connecting with their peers across Europe through ICQ chat in 2002, through youth activists in Europe and India deploying social media in politically progressive or retrograde ways, to young female gamers in the MENA region selectively hiding and revealing their gender via avatars and play talk during MMOGs, one common thread has been the ways in which digital media creates spaces for new politics and new agencies whilst also hiding or entrenching structural inequalities. But to what extent are we simply doing the digital wrong? Could its technical affordances be used to overcome systematic hierarchies, at least online? Do its social affordances simply enhance the agency of particular social classes in the global south? And are there ways in which the narrative of the digital in liberation politics has become yet another enemy of those seeking deeper social structural transformation? My lecture will attempt to answer these questions in the context of findings from several major comparative research projects in Europe, the Middle East and North Africa over the past decade.

Respondents: Professor Dorothea Kleine, Theme Lead, Digital, Data and Innovation, Sheffield Institute for International Development and Dr Michalis Kontopodis, School of Education, University of Sheffield.

The lecture will be followed by a drinks reception and a launch of the book:

Global Youth in Digital Trajectories (Routledge, 2017) edited by Michalis Kontopodis, Christos Varvantakis and Christoph Wulf.

Dr Shakuntala Banaji is Associate Professor and Director of Graduate Studies in the Department of Media and Communications at LSE. She is Programme Director for the Master’s in Media, Communication & Development and teaches about world cinema, audiences, international media and the global south. She is Principal Investigator on the ‘Personalised Media and Participatory Culture’ project and UK project director for the Horizon 2020 CATCH-EyoU project. Ongoing research addresses the intersection between socio-political contexts, old and emerging media, identities and participation, with a focus on the lives of children and young people in different geographical and class contexts. Her publications include Reading Bollywood: Young Viewers and Hindi Films (Palgrave 2006), South Asian Media Cultures (Anthem Press, 2010), The Civic Web: Young People, the Internet and Civic Participation (MIT Press, 2013) and Children and Media in India: Narratives of Class, Agency and Social Change (Routledge, 2016).

In a previous blog post, we published a review of her recent work: https://mkontopodis.wordpress.com/2017/07/06/youth_part_review/

This event is organised by the Digital Society Network in association with Sheffield Institute for International Development’s Digital Technologies, Data and Innovation  research theme.

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Posted in General Ideas

Research with Transformative Agendas: ISCAR Pre-Conference Workshop in Quebec

How can theory and research push the boundaries to integrate transformative agendas premised on ideals of equality and social justice? The next ISCAR conference takes place from the 28th of August to the 1st of September 2017 in Québec, Canada beginning with our pre-conference workshop on “Research with Transformative Agendas: Increasing Equality in Education and Beyond”. Taking on and expanding upon Vygotsky’s passionate commitment to equality, the directions to be examined are focused on inserting activism into the key considerations about human development and education at the intersection of theory, methodology, research, and practice. This opens up the space for dialogue and collaboration among cultural-historical, sociocultural, and activity scholarship on the one hand, and critical approaches in ethnography, pedagogy, work studies, and Critical Race Theory, on the other. The notions of objectivity, validity, warrants for knowledge, and researchers’ standpoints, as these can be premised on non-neutral ideals of equality and justice, will be explored. The overarching goal is to discuss how to move forward in conducting research that takes on an active role in the world in turmoil and crisis where neutrality is not an option. My presentation in this frame will explore childhood and pedagogy in the context of the Brazilian Landless Movement – one of the most important radical social movements of Latin America, with an estimated 1.5 million landless members of all possible ages and ethnic-racial groups organized all over Brazil.

Landless Children – Sem Terrinha, Landless Workers’ Movement – MST, Espirito Santo, Brazil 2010 15.14 min

For further details visit: http://iscar17.ulaval.ca/pages/anna-stetsenko-and-eduardo-vianna

See also: Kontopodis, M., Maria Cecília Magalhães and Maria José Coracini (2016). Facing Poverty and Marginalisation: Fifty Years of Critical Research in Brazil. Peter Lang.

Great thanks to Anna Stetsenko and Eduardo Vianna for their kind invitation!

Posted in events, news | Tagged , , ,

Exploring Makerspaces, Mediation & Transformative Literacies in Berlin & Quebec

Communication is nowadays taking place through interactive, mobile and online platforms that enable the speedy distributed production and circulation of multimedia designs across different institutional, geographical and community spaces. In this frame, as elucidated in the collective volume “Global Youth in Digital Trajectories“, the boundaries between life online and life offline are increasingly blurred while the children’s bodies cannot be perceived independently of its connections to multiple devices, interfaces and networks.

Departing from the position that:
• knowledge, cognition as well as affects are distributed, situated and embodied
• certain interfaces and web-designs privilege particular forms of communication and knowledge while they constrain others

I have been involved in a variety of activities at FabLab Berlin as part of a broader project involving seven EU countries and the US (cf. http://makeyproject.eu) and explored the development of activist and transformative literacies within the rising ‘maker’ culture. A conceptual framework for understanding and supporting children’s engagement in co-constructing and transforming the socio-technical worlds, which they inhabit, was developed bringing together (and in certain cases apart):
• Vygotsky’s cultural-historical approach to human development emphasising his passionate commitment to transformation and equality
• Post-human scholarship exploring the messy and dispersed interrelations between humans and technologies.

At the same time of conceiving of child development as a cultural-historical phenomenon, Vygotsky also posed the question as to how human history can lead to a new type of society and a new type of human being. Concepts such as mediation, appropriation, and active subjectivity, have been central in this undertaking. The notion of active subjectivity implies that children as well as scientists or teachers act according to their own intentions and motivations, actively participating in defining how signs and tools are used and meanings are appropriated. Active subjectivity can thus transform a given social situation so that new meanings and new practices emerge. Children can on the longer run create new meanings and new ways of VR design, making or hacking in this frame or participate in such creative processes in collaboration with others, which also explains how civilisations develop. In Russian the term “mediating activity” emphasises exactly the generation of novelty in every developmental process (as opposed to the term “mediated activity”).

The notion mediation offers a fairly fertile ground to begin analysing children’s activities in FabLabs. Yet, in its Vygotskian version, it somehow discloses exactly what it is supposed to reveal: the involvement of mediating tools and devices in on-going action, which is not only “human” but distributed in time and space and embodied in networks of technical and material artefacts (e.g. 3D printers, VR headsets, software, cables, fabrics, sensors).

This is the most crucial aspect: an actor-network e.g. of a child + software + keyboard/ mouse pad + laptop + 3D printer (as in the picture above) does not just do more or better of what this child would anyway do, it does different things and transforms the activity at stake in ways that neither the children (or the teachers/ facilitators) nor the software programme (and its developers) would have necessarily envisaged in advance. In a post-humanist perspective, the contingency and unpredictability of this dynamic ordering of humans and Other-than-humans cannot be reduced to any single part – let alone to the agency or intentions of a single human agent. A “program of action” emerges symmetrically in this context: it refers as much to the intentions of human beings as to the functions of artefacts, without invoking a distinction between humans and non-humans on the level at which the terms are applied. The original program of action is thus “translated” or “transformed” in the technical mediation into a new one. Both the machines and the person change in the course of mediated action: neither has an “essence”; they have existence, they exist, and they are transformed in their relation to one another.

If this sounds interesting to you, a few readings for further reference in this context are suggested below – I can also send you a yet unpublished chapter if you would contact me per email: michaliskonto@googlemail.com.

I am soon giving a presentation on this topic in the Congress of the International Society for Culturalhistorical Activity Research in Quebec: https://www.iscar.org/next-iscar-congress-2017/ which you may further follow through my twitter: @m_kontopodis

More information on FabLab Berlin: https://fablab.berlin/en/ 

Suggested readings:

Kontopodis, M., Wulf, C., & Fichtner, B. (Eds.). (2011). Children, development and education: Cultural, historical, anthropological perspectives. Dordrecht, London, New Delhi and New York: Springer.

Kontopodis, Michalis (2012). How Things Matter in Everyday Lives of Preschool Age Children: Material-Semiotic Investigations in Psychology and EducationJournal für Psychologie, 20(2), 1-14. Open access also here: http://www.journal-fuer-psychologie.de/index.php/jfp/article/view/116

Kontopodis, M.; Varvantakis, C. & Wulf, C. (Eds) (2017). Global Youth in Digital Trajectories. London: Routledge.

Latour, B. (1994). On technical mediation: Philosophy, sociology, genealogy. Common Knowledge, 3(2), 29–64.

Stetsenko, A. (2016). The transformative mind: Expanding Vygotsky’s approach to development and education. Cambridge, MA: Cambridge University Press.

Posted in Empirical Materials/ Examples, research projects | Tagged , , , ,

“Those in power don’t listen”: Review of “Youth Participation in Democratic Life: Stories of Hope and Disillusion” by Bart Cammaerts, Michael Bruter, Shakuntala Banaji, Sarah Harrison & Nick Anstead (PalgraveMacMillan, 2016)

By Michalis Kontopodis & Myrto Nikolopoulou

NOTE: Dr Shakuntala Banaji will give the second annual Digital Society Network lecture on Monday 9th October, 4.15 – 5.30pm at the University of Sheffield. Further details will follow soon. 

In contrast to what may have been the case a decade ago, youth in Europe are currently significantly engaging with politics through and beyond formal modes of political participation. About 64% of registered voters aged 18-24 went to polls in the recent EU referendum in the United Kingdom,[1] and an estimated 85% of young people in Greece voted “No” to the bailout conditions in the country’s government-debt crisis proposed jointly by the European Commission (EC), the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the European Central Bank in the Greek referendum of 2015.[2] Young people took actively part in the violent attacks in Paris and Brussels as well as in peaceful demonstrations against such attacks in 2015 and 2016, respectively. While many young people have set up community initiatives to support refugees in Greece or Germany others commit themselves to violent acts under the influence of extremist right-wing ideologies.

How do we however define “participation”, “politics” and/or “Europe”? What are the pertinent figures and views by the young people themselves as well as by other relevant stakeholders regarding youth participation in political life? Filling a significant gap in the relevant literature and research, the book Youth Participation in Democratic Life: Stories of Hope and Disillusion by Bart Cammaerts, Michael Bruter, Shakuntala Banaji, Sarah Harrison and Nick Anstead can be read as a highly valuable and timely contribution to mapping the current modes and levels of political participation by young people across a wide range of European countries (Austria, Finland, France, Hungary, Poland, Spain and the UK).

Youth Participation in Democratic Life is written in a very accessible way and describes in detail the theoretical frame, methodology and results of a large-scale research project led by renowned scholars from a variety of relevant disciplines such as media and communication, political science, political psychology and youth studies. It reviews a wide range of data generated through a highly innovative mixed-methodological design (combining documentary analysis, comparative secondary data analysis, large-scale representative survey of pre-voters [16-18 years old] and young voters [18- 30 years old], an experiment in e-voting, stakeholder interviews and focus group discussions).

The book consists of two introductory chapters with relevant theoretical and methodological contributions and five empirical chapters on: elections (chapter 3), European policymaking and representation (chapter 4), volunteering (chapter 5), participation through traditional and new media (chapter 6), non-participation and exclusion (chapter 7). It analyses and assesses the contexts, nature and the diversity of young people’s participation in European democratic life and explores their views regarding the political elites who appear to run the current so-called “representative democratic systems” as well as their attitudes towards volunteering, protesting, taking part in grass root community-based initiatives and employing traditional and new media for purposes of political participation. The authors manage very well to dig into details – for example when discussing quotes by diverse young people or relevant statistical data from the various local and national contexts. At the same time, in the last part of the book, they manage to provide the reader with a very good overview of the general issues that emerged through the data analysis, which in turn leads to a series of concrete and constructive recommendations for improving modes and levels of youth participation across Europe.

It is commendable that the book explores views and modes of participation by highly diverse young populations through sampling pre-voters along with young voters from 7 European countries – thereby including “active” as well as “excluded” youth. The book does not cover though refugee youth, which was the case in other publications by the authors (de Block, et al. 2005). It could also be interesting to shed more light on right wing youth by linking the analysis to further work by the authors such as the Mapping extreme right ideology by Bruter & Harrison (2011).

A main argument of the book is that youth may not regularly engage with the standard forms of political participation not because they are apathetic, but rather because the political offer does not match their concerns, ideas, and ideals of democratic politics. Diverse groups of young people feel that “those in power don’t listen” (Cammaerts, et al. 2016: 57). Youth are therefore critical against mainstream politics and traditional media and feel that they must not merely be given a voice, but also possibilities to participate in follow-up processes and to further shape the relevant debates and policy implementation. This empirical finding fits very well with studies of youth in non-European contexts (cf. Kontopodis 2014) as well as with recent theorizing on youth development and socialization (Stetsenko 2016).

Even if the term democratic life is used in the title and widely employed in the book, the authors question therefore legal and formal understandings of democracy. While official discourses fetishize certain and marginalise other forms of participation, the authors extend the term democratic life so that it covers every form of political participation young people may be involved into: from volunteering to NGOs or sharing political views on Facebook to participating in peaceful or violent demonstrations. What is more: according to the analysis, “democratic life” does not refer only to various forms of participation but concerns contents, as well: unemployment combined with the risk of poverty and social exclusion is a significant concern for today’s youth, and a major challenge to what they see as “democratic life”.

This insightful assertion can lead to the expansion of the notion of participation, and also addresses the question, whether all forms and contents of participation are considered as solely positive and desirable per se. When considering, for example, the recent initiatives where young people were involved in violent acts of extremist groups or when referring to young people’s participation in far right wing movements, participation can have totally different outcomes to what participation in democratic life entails.

Taking this analysis as a point of departure, future work could probably add further dimensions to the scope: How do young people in various European countries experience authority in institutions such as the school, the family or the church? How is democratic life experienced at micro-institutional levels and how does participation affect the “private” or “personal” spheres, which may entail gender-related power relations, family and peer-group dynamics and other forms of micro-politics? What is the potential that everyday and liminal expressions of young people’s political participation may entail (cf. Nolas, Varvantakis and Aruldoss 2016)?

Even if there is further work to do as to address such a complex issue, the wide array of analysis and the close attention to detail render Youth participation in democratic life: Stories of hope and disillusion a valuable and much needed contribution to the research literature in youth studies and the relevant disciplines such as political science, education, media and communication. We are looking very much forward to discussing the book with our BA and MA students in the years to come.

References

Bruter, M., and Harrison, S. 2011. Mapping extreme right ideology: An empirical geography of the European extreme right. Basingstoke, Hampshire: Palgrave Macmillan.

Cammaerts, B., Bruter, M., Banaji, S., Harrison, S., and Anstead, N. 2016. Youth participation in democratic life: Stories of hope and disillusion. Basingstoke, Hampshire: Palgrave Macmillan.

de Block, L., & Buckingham, D., and Banaji, S. 2005. Children in communication about migration (CHICAM): Final project report. London: Center for the Study of Children, Youth & Media, Institute of Education, University of London.

Kontopodis, M. (2014). Neoliberalism, pedagogy and human development: Exploring time, mediation and collectivity in contemporary schools. London and New York: Routledge.

Nolas, S-M., Varvantakis, C. and Aruldoss, V. 2016 “(Im)possible conversations? Activism, childhood and everyday life.” Journal of Social and Political Psychology, 4(1), 252-265.

Stetsenko, A. 2016. The transformative mind: Expanding Vygotsky’s approach to development and education. Cambridge, MA: Cambridge University Press.

[1] See https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2016/jul/09/young-people-referendum-turnout-brexit-twice-as-high (date of access: 5-Nov-16)

[2] See http://www.tovima.gr/vimagazino/views/article/?aid=721833 (date of access: 5-Nov-16)

Posted in Books (Monographs)

Just published: Global Youth in Digital Trajectories

“This is a fascinating and thought provoking volume on youth engagement with digital technology and one that is genuinely transnational and transdisciplinary in flavour. Studies of gaming, video production and social media show how new technologies are woven into the lives of young people, supporting their developing sense of agency and civic engagement. An important contribution to the field.”

Guy Merchant, Professor of Literacy in Education, Sheffield Hallam University, UK

9781138236035Edited by Michalis Kontopodis, Christos Varvantakis and Christoph Wulf, the volume titled “Global Youth in Digital Trajectories” has just been published by Routledge.

You can find the book on the publishers website or you can preview it on google books. Below you can read a brief description as well as the contents of the volume.

20% Discount flyer HERE

Global Youth in Digital Trajectories explores the most recent developments regarding youth and media in a global perspective. Representing an innovative contribution to virtual research methods, this book presents research carried out in areas as diverse as Greece, the Netherlands, Germany, Brazil, Russia, and India. The volume examines which new anthropological, and cultural-historical conditions and changes arise in connection with the widespread presence of digital media in the lives of the networked teens. Indeed, it is highlighted that the differentiation between an offline world and an online world is inapplicable to the lives of most young people.

Table of Contents

Introduction: Exploring Global Youth in Digital Trajectories

Michalis Kontopodis, Christos Varvantakis & Christoph Wulf

Chapter 1: Digital Identity Building: A Dialogue with Berlin Technology & Computer Science Students – Nika Daryan & Christoph Wulf

Chapter 2: Young People, Facebook and Pedagogy: Recognizing Contemporary Forms of Multimodal Text Making – Jeff Bezemer & Gunther Kress

Chapter 3: Playing Sports with Nintendo Wii in Berlin: Technography, Interactivity & Imagination – Nino Ferrin & Michalis Kontopodis

Chapter 4: Digital Filmmaking as a Means for the Development of Reflection: A Case Study of a Disabled University Student in Moscow – Olga Rubtsova & Natalya Ulanova

Chapter 5: Youth Tubing the Greek Crisis: A Cultural-Historical Perspective– Manolis Dafermos, Sofia Triliva and Christos Varvantakis

Chapter 6: Dove YouTube Campaign “The Pressure on Young Girls & Women to Fit an Artificial Body Ideal”: A Sequential Analysis – Alexios Brailas, Giorgos Alexias & Konstantinos Koskinas

Chapter 7: Youth, Facebook and Mediated Protest in India: A Cross-Media Exploration – Supriya Chotani

Chapter 8: Enhancing Multimedia Use in State Secondary Schools in São Paulo: Α Critical Collaborative Perspective – Fernanda Liberali, Maria Cecília

Magalhães, Maria Cristina Meaney, Camila Santiago, Maurício Canuto, Feliciana Amaral, Bruna Cababe & Jessica Santos

Instead of an Epilogue: Iconophagy: Impact and Impulses for Global Youth & Education – Norval Baitello jun.

Posted in Edited Books, news | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

Book Launch: Facing Poverty and Marginalisation: Fifty Years of Critical Research in Brazil

Facing Poverty and Marginalisation: Fifty Years of Critical Research in Brazil (co-ed Kontopodis, Magalhaes & Coracini) will be launched next Tuesday 23 May 2017, 4.15-5.00, at the Centre for Critical Psychology and Education, 388 Glossop Road Room, Room 3.02, University of Sheffield.

This book launch is organised as part of the School of Education Research Day
– there will be a reception with drinks and there is no need to reserve a place.

A 30% discount flyer is attached
HERE (which you may use even if you don’t manage to attend the event).

Detailed information on the book is provided here: https://www.peterlang.com/view/product/11424

Posted in Edited Books, events, news

New Issue: Outlines: Critical Practice Studies

We are happy to announce that Outlines Vol. 18, No. 1 is now online

Outlines is an e-journal publication providing a forum for theoretically and empirically informed debates about the relationships between individual subjects, social structures, and historically developed cultural forms of practice.

This issue features the following articles:

Jeppe Oute & Lotte Huniche: Who gets involved with what? A discourse analysis of gender and caregiving in everyday family life with depression

Sverre Raffnsøe: What is Critique? Critical Turns in the Age of Criticism

Kari Bergset: School Involvement: Refugee Parents’ Narrated Contribution to their Children’s Education while Resettled in Norway

Anne Line Wittek, Tone Dyrdal Solbrekke, Kristin Helstad: “You Learn How to Write from Doing the Writing, But You Also Learn the Subject and the Ways of Reasoning”

Enjoy! 

Posted in General Ideas, Journal Articles, news | Tagged , ,

Manchester BSA Congress Presentation: How and why should children eat healthy? (4 April, 09:00-10:30)

Is eating healthy that black & white as nutrition and policy guidelines usually claim it to be? Michalis Kontopodis’s presentation “How and why should children eat healthy? Ethnographic snapshots into diverse children’s everyday eating practices” draws on materials from his long-term ethnographic and participatory research on everyday eating practices in a variety of settings in Europe and Latin America, such as wealthy preschools, alternative urban allotment gardens, grassroots countryside movements and indigenous communities. By paying close attention to the differences in how and why children eat fruit and vegetables in these settings, Dr Kontopodis will explore how distinct knowledge practices bring together “adults”, “children” and “things” in a variety of material-semiotic entanglements over multiple temporal layers. While biomedical and psycho-pedagogical concerns intermingle with ecological as well as broader societal issues, understandings of the “individual” and the “population” may shift not only from one setting to another but even within the same setting. Such entanglements may entail “healthy” or “diverse” children’s bodies, “individual” habits or preferences, “fresh” fruit, “fancy” cups, “expensive” freezers or “free-range chickens” as well as “public health” guidelines and “agro-ecological” values. How is “childhood” re-configured in this frame? This presentation is part of the special event: “Socio-Material & Posthuman Configurations in Child & Youth Studies: Moving In-Between the Personal & the Collective” (coordinated by M. Kontopodis) taking place at the British Sociological Association Annual Conference, Manchester: 4-6 April 2017. Conference programme: HERE.

Further details & readings: https://mkontopodis.wordpress.com/biopedagogies/

Posted in events, news | Tagged , , , , , ,

Experiencing Developmental Crises in Critical Times/ Sheffield EdD Residential Weekend

Most theories of psychological development refer to a crisis that takes place in adolescence due to physical, cognitive and psychosocial changes. Little research has however explored how young people experience this psychological crisis in the context of today’s broader financial, geopolitical and ecological crises. While a crisis indicates a period of intense difficulty, it can also be understood as the turning point when a difficult or important decision must be made – which involves the possibility for the emergence of radical novelty. My lecture at the EdD Residential Weekend at the University of Sheffield (17-18 February, 2017) drew on post-vygotskian and post-structuralist grounds as to

EdD Sheffield 2017

Sheffield EdD Residential Weekend, 2017

explore the challenges and possibilities regarding youth development in this frame. I proposed a differentiation between two modes of human development: development of concrete skills (potential development) and development of new societal relations (virtual development, which is at the same time individual and collective). I also reflected on the significance of this differentiation by exploring research materials from my recent projects with disenfranchised youth in Greece, Germany, US and Brazil. Last but not least, I expanded on the notion of virtual development to consider recent technological developments that enable the multimodal communication and transnational collaboration among young people from diverse linguistic and geographical contexts. The powerpoint presentation is available HERE

Posted in events, news

Collaborating on Facebook: Teachers Exchanging Experiences Through Social Networking Sites

cultural-hist-psyJust published by Fernando Rezende da Cunha Júnior, Bert van Oers & Michalis Kontopodis: Our study explores the use of Facebook for educational purposes, as a collaborative online space for enabling communication among teachers from different schools. The article describes how a group of 43 teachers on Facebook, from various schools in the southeast region of Brazil used a group on Facebook as a collaborative space for communicating among each other. On the group, these teachers shared experiences about the use of digital technologies in their secondary education classes. This study is based on Cultural Historical Activity Theory, considering the group on Facebook as a tool for mediating communication. The objective of this study is to explore why and how teachers collaborated with each other on Facebook, and to study how communication among them evolved in the process. We examined the posts on that group from 2012 to 2014, and two questionnaires responded online by the teachers in June 2012 and in December 2013. Our findings suggest that teachers tend to critically collaborate in smaller groups and that further online communication evolved outside the group of teachers, with the creation of smaller groups on Facebook inside their schools. In: Cultural-Historical Psychology 2016. Vol. 12, no. 3, pp. 290-309. Open access HERE.

Posted in Journal Articles