On October 25, 2019, The Alliance Youth Media Network convened a Video Roundtable centered on the question, “What is youth media?” as the kick-off to our 1st Annual Youth Media Network Virtual Summit. Over the course of our 90-minute conversation, an emergent definition of youth media that synthesized our decades of knowledge was crafted. This emergent definition now frames our understanding of our collective work across many regions with many people of many ages, cultures, identities, and expressions. 

To understand youth media, we must first understand and identify from whom it originates, which is youth. The definition of youth varies and can include tweens and young adults, so roughly the age range is anywhere between 10 and 26

Then, we must understand how it is created. On the Video Roundtable, we identified four ways it is created. They are:

  • Self / Peer – This kind of youth media is created for personal reasons or to be shared with peers. It can be found in / on journals, phones, social media, text messages, or even bathroom stalls. It is not necessarily intended or created for adults.
  • Groups of Youth Creating Together – This kind of youth media is created when youth make things together. It includes things like making a film, being in a band, or producing a slam poetry event. This kind of youth media requires compromise between youth in order for it to be made. Sometimes, adults support youth but it is at the request of youth.  
  • Adult-Mediated – In this kind of youth media, an adult is in an educator or facilitator role. Often, it focuses on skill or knowledge acquisition and is taught in either a sequential or project-based way. The adult created the conditions under which the media is made and as a result has manipulated it at some point within production. 
  • Intergenerational Co-Creation – This kind of youth media is co-created by youth and adults working as peers. Roles and decisions are often articulated collaboratively using consensus so youth and adults distribute power and responsibilities equitably. The kinds of media created can include magazines, films, albums, theater, festivals, murals, and installations.

After defining who is creating it and how it is being created, we need to more clearly articulate a complex definition of media, one that both honors the history of media arts and media literacy and the emergence of new medias / mediums due to emerging technologies. Based on our best thinking, this definition emerged:

Media is a form of dialogue between a “storyteller” and an “audience” in which an eye, ear, hand, screen, lens, instrument, or tool distorts or filters the “story”.

For us, “storyteller” and “story” are placeholders for a plurality of words including musician, painting, filmmaker, poetry, cartoonist, beat, fashion designer, and more. Simply, “storytellers” have something they want to share, which are “stories”. Additionally, “audience” can be their peers or a filled theater or even her/them/himself. What matters is that the “story” is being both shared and received, and thus the “story” becomes distorted or filtered. 

Youth media then composes all of the diverse and complex relationships, ideas, practices, issues, dynamics, and creative forms expressed by youth through media. And understanding how it is created (peer/self, groups of youth creating together, adult-mediated, intergenerational co-creation) helps identify the contours of the filtering and distortion. 

What this definition fails to articulate are what values guide creation and expression. To better understand, make meaning of, and find opportunities for collaborative creation within youth media, it is important to clearly state the values guiding the creative process. 

For the Alliance Youth Media Network, we create using Intergenerational Co-Creation because we seek to cultivate physical and virtual spaces where the complexity of youth media can come together, share, and grow. We are guided by and grounded to our values of community, creativity, equality, accountability, and inclusion. You can learn more about our values here.  And you can learn more about The Alliance Youth Media Network here