On March 30 – April 1, 2015 Benjamin Hanckel, Monitoring and Evaluation Consultant at B-Change Foundation and lead of our Research Working Group, attended the Journal of Youth Studies Conference in Copenhagen, Denmark. The theme of this conference was on the challenges and risks young people face in contemporary society.
During the conference researchers and practitioners presented papers that sought to further understand the diverse experiences of young people, and how they navigate the risks that are part of their lives. Whilst the contexts of these studies were varied there was a focus on how young people are utilising existing resources online and offline for both the opportunities such tools present, such as engaging in advocacy and meeting similar others, as well as for navigating experiences of risk.
Benjamin, with co-author Natalie Ann Hendry from RMIT University, presented a paper (see abstract below), which explored how empirically we might further understand these experiences and, importantly, privilege the experiences of young people in the methods we use. In doing so the paper argued that it is important to understand how young people themselves conceptualise risk within the contexts in which they live. By understanding this, we can have a greater understanding of how technological interventions, like the BE web-app (being-me.net), might fit into young peoples everyday experiences as they explore identity, connect with others, and negotiate risk across on/offline spaces. The paper and the ongoing conversations on this topic have important implications for how we assess the way users are engaging with the web-apps, and will be taken into account in the Monitoring and Evaluation Framework moving forward.
Upon reflection, Benjamin felt that the conference was a rare opportunity for researchers to share insights on the role digital media in the lives of young people. “There was a genuine interest in the work that B-Change Foundation is doing,” Benjamin reported. “The audience was particularly interested in how we are collecting user data across diverse locations throughout Asia and the ethical concerns in doing so.”
The conference also provided an opportunity to present some of the work B-Change has undertaken to date. Specifically, in another paper (see abstract below), Benjamin presented research about the design of the BE web-app (being-me.net). The paper argued that through design components that focus on human wellbeing the web-app has been constructed to respond to the risks LGBTI young people confront in East and South-East Asia.
In doing so, this provides a safe(r) space for LGBTI young people to access information and support, crucial knowledge and networks, that they can then incorporate into their lives. This is expected to lead to increased mental health and wellbeing, as well as enhancing users overall capabilities.
It was clear to Benjamin that more work needs to be undertaken to understand how young people are incorporating digital media into their on/offline lives and the impact this has on their life. “An important take-away from the event is that much of this research is still in its infancy,” he said, “and there is very limited work coming from East and South East Asia.”
For B-Change Foundation moving forward, it will be important to understand whether the expected experience of users is the same as the actual experience. By monitoring this closely through data collection processes, which we are undertaking at present, the organisation has the ability to implement changes to the web-app/s to meet the users needs as they incorporate the web-app/s into their lives.
Abstracts presented by Benjamin Hanckel, Monitoring and Evaluation Consultant at B-Change Foundation and lead of our Research Working Group, the Journal of Youth Studies Conference 2015 in Copenhagen, Denmark.
Examining methodological practices: Locating young people’s agency in digital media research
Benjamin Hanckel & Natalie Ann Hendry
The life worlds of young people involve a variety of on/offline practices. For marginalised young people the convergence of digital media afford opportunities for identity development and social connection. However, how these practices are framed requires further attention. In this paper we consider the methodological concerns of two research projects, one based in Australia, and the second based regionally in Asia, that involve different methods (ethnographic action research and a mixed-methods digital case study) to examine marginalised young people’s social and digital media practices. We reflect on how research negotiates issues of risk and safety and, using a queer lens, we consider how methodological practices can privilege young people’s agency and subjectivity, to better understand the nuances of convergent new digital media practices. We address the limitations of traditional methods and ethics guidelines to engage with convergent new digital media. We conclude by providing a series of questions to assist researchers, and practitioners, working with marginalised young people and digital media.
Mitigating risk and facilitating access to capabilities: An analysis of the design of a regional ICT intervention for queer youth in Asia
Queer young people face ongoing discourses that position same-sex attraction as ‘wrong’ or ‘negative,’ which in many places is codified in legislation, creating barriers to information and support. Whilst new information and communication technologies (ICTs) present opportunities to circumvent and challenge these barriers (Hillier, Kurdas, and Horsley 2001; Hanckel and Morris 2014) less is known about how risk is conceptualised and mitigated within the design and development of ICTs. This paper presents a preliminary analysis of one ICT intervention targeting queer young people in 8 cities across Asia. This study examines interviews with staff, content developers and related program documentation to explore the construction of this ICT-tool assemblage. Drawing on Sen’s (1999) Capability Approach, I consider how the online space is designed to produce the affect of safety, and the measures undertaken to do so. The findings indicate that creating spaces of ‘trust’ permeates throughout the narratives of the development of the ICT tool. This has an impact on the coding and infrastructure supporting the tool, and the development of content and policies supporting its implementation. This creates space that affords access to capabilities. Consequently, the tool aims to circumvent the geographically defined risks associated with collecting Internet data, whilst also connecting marginalized youth to online tools. These findings have implications for how we conceptualize risk in online spaces, and how ICT-based programs might mitigate risks that characterise the lived experiences of non-heterosexual youth.