Young listening: An ethnography of YouthWorx Media's radio project

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<ul><li><p>This article was downloaded by: [USC University of Southern California]On: 04 October 2014, At: 01:03Publisher: RoutledgeInforma Ltd Registered in England and Wales Registered Number: 1072954 Registeredoffice: Mortimer House, 37-41 Mortimer Street, London W1T 3JH, UK</p><p>Continuum: Journal of Media &amp; CulturalStudiesPublication details, including instructions for authors andsubscription information:</p><p>Young listening: An ethnography ofYouthWorx Media's radio projectAneta Podkalicka aa Institute for Social Research, Swinburne University ofTechnology , Hawthorn, AustraliaPublished online: 27 Jul 2009.</p><p>To cite this article: Aneta Podkalicka (2009) Young listening: An ethnography of YouthWorx Media'sradio project, Continuum: Journal of Media &amp; Cultural Studies, 23:4, 561-572</p><p>To link to this article:</p><p>PLEASE SCROLL DOWN FOR ARTICLE</p><p>Taylor &amp; Francis makes every effort to ensure the accuracy of all the information (theContent) contained in the publications on our platform. However, Taylor &amp; Francis,our agents, and our licensors make no representations or warranties whatsoever as tothe accuracy, completeness, or suitability for any purpose of the Content. Any opinionsand views expressed in this publication are the opinions and views of the authors,and are not the views of or endorsed by Taylor &amp; Francis. The accuracy of the Contentshould not be relied upon and should be independently verified with primary sourcesof information. Taylor and Francis shall not be liable for any losses, actions, claims,proceedings, demands, costs, expenses, damages, and other liabilities whatsoever orhowsoever caused arising directly or indirectly in connection with, in relation to or arisingout of the use of the Content.</p><p>This article may be used for research, teaching, and private study purposes. Anysubstantial or systematic reproduction, redistribution, reselling, loan, sub-licensing,systematic supply, or distribution in any form to anyone is expressly forbidden. Terms &amp;Conditions of access and use can be found at</p><p></p></li><li><p>Young listening: An ethnography of YouthWorx Medias radio project</p><p>Aneta Podkalicka*</p><p>Institute for Social Research, Swinburne University of Technology, Hawthorn, Australia</p><p>Listening as the act of aural consumption has commonly been the moment in culturalpractice around which analysis has cohered. This has certainly been the case with thecultural objects of popular music and radio broadcasting. Where young people have beenbrought into the frame of such analyses, the impact of listening on the formation of the selfhas been highly pronounced leading at times to public panic around particular musicalgenres and their associated socio-cultural practices, for instance around hip-hop, heavymetal and emo music. This paper investigates the combination of radio broadcasting andyoung people from the perspective of cultural production as a redemptive process.The taxonomy of a reflexive listening to oneself ; collaborative listening to others; andthe empowering and responsibilizing process of being listened to grounded in anethnography of radio production is employed to explore the social processes of learningto listen undertaken by the YouthWorx Media program that engages disadvantagedyoung people in media creation, while setting a scene for the projects evaluation.</p><p>Introduction</p><p>Michael Welton argues that listening ought to be in the foreground of our thinking about</p><p>how deliberative democracy works, its key function being understanding and learning</p><p>from each other (Welton 2002, 198). This process of dialogic engagement can, according</p><p>to Bickford, be deeply transformative since by listening to others we can modify our</p><p>worldviews, which is central to collective figuring out, to the communicative exercise of</p><p>practical reason, in other words to political deliberation (Bickford 1996, 51). But how</p><p>does listening take place in practice? What are some specific ways and opportunities for</p><p>learning to listen and be listened to? What abilities are involved in this learning process,</p><p>and how does this experience then fit into a larger project of dialogic participation and</p><p>democracy?</p><p>This paper reports on the YouthWorx Media (YWX) youth media project as a site for</p><p>analysis of listening called into being by the radio production context. YouthWorx Media</p><p>(YWX) is a collaborative youth media project based in Melbourne. It is an</p><p>organizationally complex initiative that brings together the creative and distributive</p><p>infrastructure of the youth community radio Student Youth Network (SYN) Media, the</p><p>social service of the Salvation Army, non-profit youth agency Youth Development</p><p>Australia (YDA), and the research expertise of the Australian Research Council Centre</p><p>for Creative Industries and Innovation with the aim of engaging disadvantaged young</p><p>people in media creation. Through its direct partnership with SYN Media, applauded for</p><p>its policies of open access and media training for young people (Rennie and Thomas</p><p>2008), YWX aims to offer disadvantaged youth an opportunity to have a voice, but also</p><p>ISSN 1030-4312 print/ISSN 1469-3666 online</p><p>q 2009 Taylor &amp; Francis</p><p>DOI: 10.1080/10304310903015704</p><p></p><p>*Email:</p><p>Continuum: Journal of Media &amp; Cultural Studies</p><p>Vol. 23, No. 4, August 2009, 561572</p><p>Dow</p><p>nloa</p><p>ded </p><p>by [</p><p>USC</p><p> Uni</p><p>vers</p><p>ity o</p><p>f So</p><p>uthe</p><p>rn C</p><p>alif</p><p>orni</p><p>a] a</p><p>t 01:</p><p>03 0</p><p>4 O</p><p>ctob</p><p>er 2</p><p>014 </p></li><li><p>to be listened to by allowing them to circulate their stories to the established audience of</p><p>SYN. Since 2008, YouthWorx has run an open access and independent media program</p><p>for over 100 young people recruited from a range of Melbourne social agencies. In 2009</p><p>also YWX commenced an accredited course in Creative Industries II with 15 enrolees.</p><p>At YouthWorx young people are encouraged and supported to express themselves by co-</p><p>creating personal digital stories, recording original songs, producing artworks and radio</p><p>content. They are also given an opportunity to produce their own live-to-air radio</p><p>program at SYN. This broadcasting experience is special for disadvantaged kids as a</p><p>means of distinction and empowerment. Importantly, it presents them with unique</p><p>opportunities for learning to listen, with a direct bearing on a possibility of their</p><p>reintegration with society, and well-functioning democracy generally. To unpack how</p><p>listening can be learned in the process of radio making I propose a threefold model of the</p><p>varieties of listening, including a reflexive process of listening to the self, creative</p><p>collaboration and listening to others, and the empowering and responsibilizing process</p><p>of being listened to. This taxonomy is useful not only for understanding how</p><p>transformation is intended to occur for young participants involved in the YWX project</p><p>but also as a legitimate toolkit for its evaluation. Unlike the SYN cultural model, YWX</p><p>deals with a special demographic of youth at risk, that is young people who are either</p><p>in residential or foster care, long-term disengaged from mainstream education, with a</p><p>low literacy level, and/or drug, alcohol or juvenile justice issues. Social impact here</p><p>cannot be measured in terms of harder quantifiable job or qualification results suitable</p><p>for other target groups (e.g. SYN regular volunteers see Rennie and Thomas 2008),</p><p>but instead soft outcomes (Dewson et al. 2000). Learning to listen in the sense of</p><p>acquiring abilities of self-expression and self-reflection, collaboration with others, and</p><p>responsibility towards others is, as I argue, YouthWorxs ultimate objective, and as such</p><p>should constitute a benchmark for the projects impact evaluation.</p><p>To explore the transformative process of learning to listen, which extends beyond the</p><p>production of a satisfactory radio program into young peoples lives, I have used</p><p>qualitative research techniques informed by an ethnographic perspective. They have</p><p>involved regular and long-term participant observation, qualitative one-on-one interviews,</p><p>focus groups, questionnaires and analysis of young peoples multimedia creations. This</p><p>research approach can be identified as yet another act of listening, i.e. the researchers</p><p>engaged systematic listening to the project participants. A detailed account of what</p><p>can be called professional or ethnographic listening involving a range of ethical,</p><p>methodological and practical complexities will be the subject of a separate publication.</p><p>This paper instead offers a preliminary exploration of actual strategies used to help the</p><p>transformative process occur, how it is carried out, and what the participants responses</p><p>are. While the identified varieties of listening are actualized throughout the whole cultural</p><p>process that YWX engineers, I specifically highlight and engage analytically with the</p><p>three listening moments as experienced during the fieldwork. These moments include a</p><p>pre-SYN training context of YWX purpose-built Brunswick studio, the SYN radio studio,</p><p>and the broadcast situation are recalled as indicative of transformative soft social impacts</p><p>that the project is producing in its participants.</p><p>Moment 1: Reflexive process of listening to oneself</p><p>Be YourselfNothing sounds worse than a copycat! It is no good copying Nova or Fox, because odds arethat you will not sound like them. If listeners want that style, they will tune in to hear the real</p><p>562 A. Podkalicka</p><p>Dow</p><p>nloa</p><p>ded </p><p>by [</p><p>USC</p><p> Uni</p><p>vers</p><p>ity o</p><p>f So</p><p>uthe</p><p>rn C</p><p>alif</p><p>orni</p><p>a] a</p><p>t 01:</p><p>03 0</p><p>4 O</p><p>ctob</p><p>er 2</p><p>014 </p></li><li><p>thing, not your impersonation. Remember that people listen to SYN because it is real peopleon the air be yourself. (Student Youth Network 2008)</p><p>To be oneself one needs to find oneself or ones voice. The idea of an active quest for</p><p>inner identity, self-expression and creative potential underpins a large number of</p><p>community arts projects that engage youth at risk in creative arts as a form of therapy,</p><p>self-expression, skill development, and social integration (e.g. Jesuit Social Services </p><p>Thiele and Mardsen 2003; Risky Business: Young People, Collaboration and Arts</p><p>Engagement OBrien 2005). In the art therapy context, finding oneself through art and</p><p>storytelling is recast as reconstitution narratives to bring order to the chaos of fractured</p><p>lives (OBrien 2005) to effect change and growth on a personal level. In development</p><p>communications, finding a voice means the actualization of a social right to express</p><p>oneself in order to participate in social, political and economic processes by using ICT and</p><p>media (Tacchi 2008). Related work concerns itself with documenting vernacular rather</p><p>than expert voices about poverty, health, education, etc., and developing locally produced</p><p>content (Tacchi and Kiran 2008). The self-representation of ordinary personal voices as a</p><p>means to enhance democratic representation and a positive social change through the use</p><p>of the digital storytelling (DST) process is documented in a large body of literature on DST</p><p>practice and research (Lundby 2008; Hartley and McWilliam 2009; Burgess 2006).</p><p>Similarly, in the field of youth media studies, in which YWX situates itself most distinctly,</p><p>the concept of voice is critical to explore the ways in which the youth are provided with</p><p>necessary access and (media) skills to express their personal stories (Maira and Soep</p><p>2005). Soep criticizes the notion of an authentic voice of young people often</p><p>romanticized by artists/project facilitators (Soep 2006), or automatically ascribed an</p><p>emancipatory value. Instead, she argues to frame a youth voice as an interactive</p><p>crowded talk occurring in the cultural production process, whereby a creators self-</p><p>expression takes into account also potential audiences responses and/or editorial</p><p>instructions or feedback. She further postulates a contextualization of youth voice within</p><p>broader socio-economic structures of educational and labour markets. Soep makes a</p><p>number of valuable observations that resonate with my research experience, which I report</p><p>on through the analysis of interconnected listening modalities occurring throughout the</p><p>YWX program.</p><p>The discovery of a personal value and exploration of the self is an important element of</p><p>the YWX process. A crucial aesthetic dimension in the form of media making experience</p><p>is being added to basic life necessities such as housing, food, and counselling, normally</p><p>provided for youth at risk by social organizations such as the Salvation Army. Craig</p><p>Campbell, Programs Manager of the Salvation Army Brunswick Youth Services, calls it</p><p>the stuff that makes kids eyes light up as it connects with their world (Campbell 2008).</p><p>This search for solutions to the problem of youth marginalization beyond food and</p><p>shelter (MacKenzie 2009) translates into a range of creative activities at the YWX studio</p><p>in the northern Melbourne suburb of Brunswick which sees young people develop and</p><p>reflect on their artistic self by co-creating personal digital stories, recording original songs,</p><p>producing artworks, and radio content. As part of his experience of making a song, one of</p><p>the participants explained, highlighting this introspective, reflexive angle facilitated by the</p><p>supportive social context of YWX:</p><p>Well, I spoke to my youth worker, and I said to him it would be grouse to make a song and hesaid, well, jot down some points of what you want the song to mean, to have a meaning orsomething like that. So I was thinking about all the stuff Ive been through, like being bymyself a lot, and stuff . . . So I kind of put that down, put that meaning into a song, and [later]had the social workers mate to help me out to put in some extra words and to make it make</p><p>Continuum: Journal of Media &amp; Cultural Studies 563</p><p>Dow</p><p>nloa</p><p>ded </p><p>by [</p><p>USC</p><p> Uni</p><p>vers</p><p>ity o</p><p>f So</p><p>uthe</p><p>rn C</p><p>alif</p><p>orni</p><p>a] a</p><p>t 01:</p><p>03 0</p><p>4 O</p><p>ctob</p><p>er 2</p><p>014 </p></li><li><p>sense and all that. I think it took about two hours to get the whole script done and get thechords right; and it was pretty much done from there. I just had to learn how to play it.</p><p>As part of the pre-SYN radio training, the participants come up with their own choice of</p><p>stories, music to play, do their research and record. For most of them, the opportunity to</p><p>record their voices and listen back to them is available for the first time in their lives. On a</p><p>material auditory level, young people are encouraged to listen to how their voice sounds</p><p>amplified by the mike in the radio studio. This listening can be both a projection of how we</p><p>imagine our voice sounds (as in singing along to a radio song in a car, which is often out of</p><p>tune but we dont care), or a more attentive intentional act in which we listen and modulate</p><p>our voice to follow a convention or create an approximation of a voice we like. There is</p><p>clearly a space between the natural and mediated voice in the context of rad...</p></li></ul>