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LKL Workshop 12 September 2007


Presentation by Jon Akass  

Debate 5: How can developers explore new ways of understanding their user base?


Media Citizens is a multimedia development company working across HE, FE, schools and community learning. Our focus in the Learner Generated Contexts group is public participation in media publishing – from community films to citizen journalism and the creation of public archives.



MA, BA and FDA Journalism. Publication run by students – managed by tutors.




Media based digital inclusion project at Elephant & Castle, south London.

Providing online portfolios for level 3 students on our E-Media course.

Also community films by and for social groups.




Public archive participation project.





Southwark Police want to tackle rampant youth crime by encouraging young people to negotiate their environment through media channels rather than gangs and weapons.


They’ve provided seed funding for a web publication to be created by schoolchildren for schoolchildren. Young people are to be involved in the design, agenda setting and media production.


The idea is to support the group with the equipment, facilities, production training and journalism skills. The goal is to foster the creation of short form media productions that serve their community and can be spread through social networking sites.


As an initial design process 20 schoolchildren were recruited from 3 Peckham schools for a two week filmmaking project at Intomedia – August 2007. We asked them to identify the issues affecting young people in their locality, and gave them the opportunity to create narratives about their own lives focused on moral dilemmas.


We’re now setting up an after school club at a City Learning Centre to extend the project over the coming academic year. This will be linked to a network of media teachers at 15 borough schools.


We’re advised the schools would currently ban pupil access to such a website.


EXAMPLES of the work created by the group will be shown during the presentation.




Students media interests focused on social networking sites - myspace Bebo, YouTube.


  • All students had at least one customisable homepage.
  • They liked comic user generated content.
  • They watched clips of local schoolkids fighting.
  • They considered documentaries to be ‘boring’.
  • They were not concerned with high production values.


  • They demonstrated little interest in the world outside themselves and their friends.
  • They would only listen to recommendations/advice from their peers.
  • Students had little knowledge of the opportunities available to them.
  • They seemed unaware/uninterested in activities in the rest of the borough.


The issues that they identified as affecting them were:


  • Crime (particularly gangs/guns & knives),
  • Dealing with insults,
  • Bullying,
  • Staying in school and careers.
  • Drugs,
  • Sex and relationships.


Their stories focused on issues of justice, revenge and honour.

They all viewed the police as corrupt, ineffectual and not to be trusted.

Gangs were the first source of justice in their world.


IMAGE Chillin

We asked them to take pictures of themselves, showed them how to manipulate them in Photoshop and then challenged them on their representation of themselves.



We gave them tasks to produce short stories with dilemmas without a conclusion.

The idea was the make media that would provoke a response - a conversation or a debate.


FILMSBebo Race

We asked to make short films that would prompt their peer group to seek advice outside of their peer group.


Key issues involve:


  • Degrees of ownership – the funding does affect the agenda.
  • The need for short narrative forms.
  • The potential for using social networking sites for sharing learning.
  • The technology facilitates the process but is not the solution.
  • The real learning in the project came from gaining trust and challenging their thinking.


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