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Studying the digital and social media practices of youth in "from the ground up" policy making

McGill Collaborative Research Grant


Claudia Mitchell (PI), Shaheen Shariff,
Steve Jordan, Eun Park, Carolyn Hank,
Ann Macaulay

Sarah Flicker

U of Toronto:
June Larkin

Linda Liebenberg

U.Westerm Mass:
Aline Gubrium

David Buckingham

U. of South Australia:
Gerry Bloustien

Wendy Luttrell

Naydene deLange

Relebohile Moletsane






The proposed collaboration seeks to advance the study of youth participation and digital media in relation to policy making. Located within the growing body of work in youth studies and youth engagement which points to the significance of the participation of young people, at least in principle, to both informal and official dialogue around issues of concern to their everyday lives, it poses the key question of how the digital and social media practices of adolescents, a group typically excluded from policy dialogue, can inform social policies related to their own safety, security and well-being? What tools and methods are needed, and how can innovations in this area be used by those directly responsible for developing and implementing policies related to youth? The project will answer these question by building and using digital tools for studying and supporting digital production by young people, and through deep engagement with young people and policy makers about the impact of youth-produced media in relation to critical social issues as defined by youth. The proposed collaboration through its expertise in work with  both aboriginal and non-aboriginal youth in relation to digital and social media offers a unique opportunity to study the ways that young people in diverse contexts are using mobile phones, other digital communication technologies, and social media tools to produce, share, and comment on videos, photos, podcasts, and text streams to affect change in a collaborative community capacity. Even youth who do not have direct access to the Internet have a growing number of ways of receiving reliable sexual health information. Sharing information and interacting with their peers, for example, through text messaging and interacting with multiple individuals and groups through crowdmapping resources. Youth are harnessing social networking and social media tools for developing sexual health promotion campaigns and promoting activist movements that are becoming increasingly popular through crowdfunding platforms such as Kickstarter, and global tools such as Youthmovements.org. Social media trends and the sheer volume of data produced by youth are compelling reasons for researchers to tap into what young people are saying about their own health and well-being. Broadly, the proposed collaboration will bolster a network of youth-focused researchers working across several research different contexts in Canada, the US, the UK, South Africa, and Australia, drawing on youth-produced and youth-focused texts across a variety of settings, including urban and rural, indigenous, and the Global North and Global South. At the national level, this project will secure a leading Canadian role amongst an international network of scholars working on innovative research into youth, digital media, and social change. It can contribute to setting an extremely important policy agenda for national and international NGOs and to address ethical issues, particularly when interacting with data produced by youth populations.