Youth and the City: Reflective Photography as a Tool of Urban Voice

Authors: Gerodimos, R.

Journal: Journal of Media Literacy Education

Volume: 10

Issue: 1

Pages: 82-103

ISSN: 2167-8715

Young people’s engagement with urban public space has been facing a number of obstacles that reflect a lack of understanding of their needs, values and priorities. The emergence of digital devices and social media as integral elements of youth culture adds further urgency to the need to understand how young people themselves visually articulate their perceptions of life in the city. Bringing together elements from urban studies, youth studies and digital media literacy, this paper puts forward a pedagogic and research approach that aims to facilitate youth engagement with urban landscapes and the community. Participatory photography was used a tool for capturing youth urban voice with British undergraduate students. A methodological framework for the coding and analysis of participants’ images and reflective pieces was conducted with a pilot study involving 51 students. By employing a participatory/reflective photography methodology analyzing youth engagement with the urban landscape, the exercise produced highly engaged and emotive visual and textual narratives. Student work focused around issues of unemployment, dereliction and conglomeration. Findings reveal that participants focused more on the social and economic properties of place than on its aesthetic and architectural ones. They viewed their local spaces through media filters and a prism of disempowered and individualized consumption. The paper ultimately highlights a paradox: while young people are at the forefront of unprecedented global digital connectivity, at the same time their narratives emit a sense of civic loneliness. Global change and urbanization are perceived as destructive forces that have an adverse effect on their way of life.

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