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Comunicar Journal 38: Media Literacy in Multiple Contexts (Vol. 19 - 2012)

The digital afterlife of youth-made media: Implications for media literacy education


The digital age has fundamentally re-configured the relationship between makers and users. Every networked action by a user has the potential to be reinterpreted by other users. The original intentions of media makers emerge from this process in recontextualized form that I call the «digital afterlife». The phenomenon of digital afterlife has striking implications for youth-made media, which I explore in this article through an ethnographic analysis of behind-the-scenes activities among a group of young people working with Youth Radio, a California youth organization, where they create high-impact media. The case study examined here centers on a major investigative reporting initiative within Youth Radio – a transmedia series on child sex trafficking produced by a 21-year-old reporter in collaboration with veteran editors. The analysis reveals the ways in which youth media ceases to be «youth media», once it moves into its digital afterlife, given the extent to which the content gets re-produced, again and again, by adult institutions with their own histories, agendas, and political economies. The article concludes by identifying key dimensions of literacy that young people invent and deploy through their experiments with social and mobile media, including: discovery, analytics, network mobilization, and platform programming.