Participatory culture meets critical practice: Documentary film production in a youth internship program

Cassandra Scharber, Kris Isaacson, Tracey Pyscher, Cynthia Lewis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Purpose: This paper aims to closely examine the features of an urban community-based learning program to highlight the synergy between its educational technology, literate practices and social justice ethos that impact youths’ learning and documentary filmmaking. This examination of a learning setting illuminates the “what is possible” and “how it comes to be possible” (Gomez et al., 2014, p. 10), illustrating possibilities for youths’ tech-mediated literacies to facilitate, support and extend engagement in social justice. Design/methodology/approach: Grounded in the theoretical and analytical concept of activity theory, this study uses qualitative methods and activity systems analysis. Observations are the primary data source coupled with a detailed activity analysis supported by artifacts, images and interviews. Program participants included 12 youth, 2 youth mentors, 1 adult coordinator and 1 adult facilitator. Findings: Findings illustrate that all subjects (participants) in the program co-created and shaped the activity system’s object (or purpose). Analyses also reveal the ways in which the program enables and empowers youth through its development of participatory literacy practices that “can facilitate learning, empowerment, and civic action” (Jenkins et al., 2016). Originality/value: Overall, this study is a contribution to the field as it responds to the need for close examinations of complex technology-mediated learning settings “through the lens of equity and opportunity” (Ito et al., 2013).

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)355-374
Number of pages20
JournalEnglish Teaching
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2016

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2016, © Emerald Group Publishing Limited.


  • Literacy
  • Media
  • New literacies


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