Friday, 18 March 2011

Collective identity: Youth 2- School and online

In the last post, we looked mainly at demonisation and a little at how subculture might lead to self-representation. In this post, we will consider the latter issue further with a look at how people represent themselves online. we will also look at some examples of more complex representation, where the stereotypes are played with in the way that characters are portrayed more sympathetically and developed so that the audience can understand them better. We will end by taking a look at different representations of school and the impact that these might have.

This great little video sums up quite neatly the way that people try to express an identity online. Apart from your photos, how else do you try to construct your own identity online, or indeed multiple identities in different places? In what ways does that identity become part of a collective group when you join say, facebook groups or forums or participate in sites like World of Warcraft?

Back in the 1960s, Erving Goffman wrote this book. The ideas in it are summed up in the first speech the second is how it might still be seen to apply today.

Two good contemporary examples of how fiction can change our first impressions of characters are Fish Tank and Misfits. Both are worth exploring much further. In Fish Tank Mia is presented to us at the start as an angry 'chav' girl, but by letting us into her story she is given great depth and we can come to understand her feelings and her relationships with the adult world.

In Misfits, Kelly is represented in a similar way at the start, but she emerges from the series as a much more complex character.

I will be writing a lot more about Misfits in an upcoming blog, but suffice to say that I think it is one of the best British dramas of recent years.

I just got sent a link to this video, which I hadn't seen before. It is made by three students doing Video production at Essex University and is meant to be an affectionate send-up of their home town. If you go to their channel profile, you can hear an amusing radio interview with them about the project.

School is a rich area for analysis, since its fictional screen representation and its coverage in the news is so frequent and can always be measured against our own experience. From Harry Potter and St.Trinians to Grange Hill and Inbetweeners, fictional schools always provoke debate.

In this extract from Grange Hill, we see the community gang up to take action against the school bully, Gripper. It feels very old fashioned and static now, forming an interesting contrast with programmes like Waterloo Road.

Non-fictional representations are equally interesting for the assumptions they lead to on the part of audiences. Jamie Oliver's Dream School has provoked lots of opinions about how young people behave and what schools should be doing. It is a preposterous idea- sending a bunch of celebrities in as untrained teachers and dressing up over-aged youth in school uniform again. If you watch the Tv episodes, they are tightly edited so that we gete the programme makers version of events- often with lots of shouting and confrontations. Watch them on youtube and you get a slightly different view. The kids aren't quite so antagonistic, for starters.

Ex-teacher Katherine Berbalsingh became famous overnight when she gave a speech at the Conservative Party conference in the autumn about how bad our schools are and how they let the kids down. Her views on solutions fit very closely with those of the education secretary, Michael Gove. Since that speech, she has left teaching, the school she taught at has been closed down and she has published a book which is a supposed diary of a year in her life as a teacher. She has also been in the media quite a lot, especially on the BBC as a spokesperson for education. She is a good example of the opposite of demonisation- someone whose views are picked up as somehow having status and value because of her experience and because they chime with a kind of 'commonsense' that is around at that time. In her book she changes the names of her ex-students to words which supposedly 'represent' their personalities. It's worth thinking about how news coverage of someone like her affects audience views of young people and how they should be treated.

Our final 'critic' for this post is de Zengotita, who wrote a book caled 'Mediated', which argues that most of what we know about the world comes through the media, so it is bound to influence our thinking about it and even the way in which define ourselves.
How far do we think this is true and what evidence would we use to back it up?

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