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The Role of Digital Media in Empowerment Education: Conceptualizing Participatory Methodology



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Hu, John C. H. 


This paper provides an overview of advantages and issues surrounding fictional digital media in empowerment education and participatory action research involving youth. Following theoretical underpinnings of Freire expanded by Nicholl’s Pedagogy of the Privileged, the discussions first consider digital media as alternative mental spaces for pedagogy, engagement, and dissemination of knowledge. First, for oppressed youth, digital media can be employed as a Safespace in which some level of mental health respite is offered amidst forces of oppression in an individual's physical context of marginalization. Second, digital media can provide a Non-Safespace in which privileged and oppressed youth are engaged towards collaborative discourse. Social justice themes which lead to incongruent perspectives between different youth can be presented as less confrontational by digital media - which can be utilized to offer multiple, iterative chances of collaborative learning. Thirdly, digital media can be applied in research engagement as Experimental Space, in which youth access opportunities to take on the perspectives and lived experiences of characters in both privilege and oppression classes alike. This immersion in the lived experiences of the other can lead to greater understanding and potential empathy towards future action against oppression. These three spaces offered by digital media may help overcome the need to self-censor that oppressed youth face in classroom and research settings. Negative emotions associated with living in oppression can be perceived as what Stephen Kemmis identifies as society’s “unwelcome truths”, often silenced, but given potential outlet via the digital realm. The complex interplay between reimbursement in research, social mobility, and societal expectations of oppressed youth to self-help are discussed in relation to inequitable power structures. Here, digital media presents an additional interrogation of inequality, as it allows youth to be creators - who amplify their own voice without needing approval from society.



Inequalities, empowerment, intersectionality, mental health, access

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CERJ, Faculty of Education, University of Cambridge

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