Practicing inclusivity with new media : young people, digital technology and democratic cultural participation.
This thesis describes and explores the development of forms of cultural participation, using
photography and digital imaging, with young people in informal contexts. The process has been one
of action research, within which groups of young people have developed distinct forms of cultural
participation with the researcher over a sustained period. Workshops have been conducted over a
three year period with young people in the indoor markets at Birmingham's Bull Ring and with a group
of young people based at a lesbian, gay and bisexual youth group. The later group directed the
construction of, and made images for, a web site entitled Young, Queer and Safe? This work, along
with pilot studies, has informed the development of the research and the focus of this thesis. As such
this thesis seeks to represent the experiences of young people who have been overlooked in
previous research in the field.
Previous research in this field has focussed on the experiences of young people with privileged
access to digital technology at home or through formal education. Such research has informed the
prevalent vision of young people as engaged with, and by, new media and posits the idea that all
young people are competent users of digital technology. This ignores the experiences of many
young people. This thesis is not a critique of the ideology which clusters around young people, digital
technology and education, but an attempt to undercut it through research with young people who
have not necessarily had such access as would enable them to identify skills in digital technology
This research has shown that:
1 Young people's priorities in cultural participation should not be assumed.
2 Young people's different agendas are significant, and can be made explicit in spaces where
traditional social, age, and cultural hierarchies are less pervasive.
3 The representation of different agendas through cultural production is significant to wider
cultural understandings of young people's diverse contemporary experiences.
4 Different ways of making, as well as differences in focus for production, are significant to the
pursuit of democratic cultural practice.
5 When outcomes are diverse and transient, as has been the case within this research,
traditional forms of classification collapse, problematising the way we consider those
The research has developed an inclusive pedagogic practice which is significant to formal education,
community arts practice, and, contemporary research methodologies.