Date of Degree

6-2023

Document Type

Capstone Project

Degree Name

M.A.

Program

Liberal Studies

Advisor

Giancarlo Lombardi

Subject Categories

Children's and Young Adult Literature | Graphic Communications | Interpersonal and Small Group Communication | Liberal Studies | Mass Communication | Other Film and Media Studies | Publishing | Television

Keywords

childhood and youth studies, youth media, youth studies, children's studies, children's media, children's book publishing

Abstract

Media is a constant, persistent force in human lives that informs and influences through published, broadcasted, and digitally mediated formats. Mass media industries produce and distribute content consumed by diverse audiences, though the facilitators represent only a fraction of the demographics they serve.

Youth denote one of the most frequently misrepresented groups, with very few practical opportunities for young people to make decisions about the texts available to them. A jarring absence of youth participation in media creation at all levels suggests cultural contributions through art exclude young people's authentic perspectives and desires. Moreover, media portrayals of youth cannot adequately reflect distinct experiences or temperaments because they are manufactured by adults who disproportionately benefit from these ventures.

Adulthood is a relational age juxtaposed against youthhood through sociocultural constructions and perceived naturalization that occurs through life experiences. As such, youth are often seen as non-humans in a socially inferior position according to the youth-adult binary. Youth are misrepresented as passive and dependent rather than interdependent individuals shaped by and shaped society. This ideology devalues youth-oriented media, despite its significant role in human maturation.

Turning to an evaluation of independent media ventures called zines reveals similarities to youth media in targeted age range and visual aesthetic but with more significant opportunities for genuine youth participation. Zines are countercultural spaces for any person to engage with available media and their environments while communicating with a network of others. For decades, youth have used zines to express themselves without the various obstacles that mass media fosters.

Turning theory into practice, I created a zine, MOOD, that explores youth media, critiquing its devaluation and the subsequent consequences for creators of all ages. The children’s book publishing industry, in particular, is used to exemplify the power these insular companies hold. In contrast, examples of prestige youth media signal the existence of quality youth media works. Ultimately, the comparison of zines and mass media for youth proves that there is space for young people to make contributions to art and culture meant for other young people and that the benefits can extend to all age groups.

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