Category: Youth

Media theory hip hop video

Global Youth Media by appl juic – YouTube.

Last year I had the honor to contribute “Practicing Sustainable Youth Media” to an essay collection edited by JoEllen FisherKeller, International Perspectives on Youth Media (Mediated Youth). One of her graduate students put together this fun video based on the book, which combines hip hop and media theory. It may be the first of its kind! Enjoy!

Buzz kill: ambient music not a dangerous drug

As points out (Report: Teens Using Digital Drugs to Get High), there is a new hysteria about a craze called “i-dosing.” As the story goes, teens are encouraged to put on headphones and to listen to ambient tracks on the Internet that induce feelings of pleasure and ecstasy. God help them! As the Wired article points out, the phenomena is getting the attention of some concerned folks who worry that this is simply a gateway to some other drug, like marijuana or LSD. Never mind that this is much safer than a much more pressing addiction: our insatiable appetite for war and petroleum.

Indeed, their fears are likely confirmed by the graphic on the signature i-dose track (posted above), “Gates of Hades” (you have to let it run a little to see it). If anything I find the electronic pulse on this track annoying. I much prefer a Tibetan bowl, Balinese gongs, chanting ohm or my favorite: a live Sonic Youth feedback jam. But hey, who can fault teens for wanting to transcend the hellish nightmare we call school and American consumerism.

The fear of teens evading the control of the capitalist/Church mind trap is normal in America. During a time when corporations have hijacked democracy and are poisoning the planet, there’s never a better moment to whip up hysteria about how race music/rock/rave/Internet are abducting our children.

Incidentally, the article’s comments are hilarious. My favorite comment comes from Zombowski, who put it this way: “I can’t figure out how to get the music into the needle. Do I shoot it up with an old record player?”

Obamastock: ‘collective effervescence’

While I think the premise of this article is a little over-hyped, I think it’s interesting that people are comparing Woodstock with the inauguration.

Inauguration is a ‘generational touchstone’:

(01-19) 17:18 PST — America’s twentysomething Millennials have driven, hitchhiked, walked, biked and bused their way to Washington in hordes this week to witness the must-see, must-be-there event of their lives – the swearing-in of Barack Obama.

Many of their Baby Boomer parents can relate: They remember this thing called Woodstock.

A rock concert on a farm in upstate New York – where Jimi Hendrix’s guitar wailed the “The Star-Spangled Banner” during three days of rock ‘n’ roll, sex and drugs – doesn’t approach the weight of the inauguration of the first African American president.

But there are surprising similarities, experts say. Just as Woodstock was for their parents, Obama’s moment assuming the presidency represents a generational touchstone event – one that will define Millennials’ lives, their age and their experience and become the event they will tell their kids and grandkids about.

And if history is a guide, a lot of folks who aren’t there today will claim they were. Woodstock attracted a relatively small 400,000, and somehow it seems millions remember being on hand.

We be good

I can’t deny this video makes me feel proud and happy for our youth. I wish my generation (Gen x) was as optimistic. This group certainly contributed to Obama’s success. I hope they will continue to apply pressure for true change. I’ll be watching their back.

For about the site and book, go to Gen We and download the book for free.

Modding the game


Speaking of Grand Theft Auto, a media educator shares an interesting story about transgressing boundaries of the so-called virtual world.

Global Kids’ Digital Media Initiative:

He had, however, developed an unusual method for being a cabbie. Rather than slowing down before picking up a fare, he would often run a person over, wait for him or her to get back up (as if nothing had happened) and climb into his cab, then drive away. I could just imagine how this might appear in a newspaper: “Teen Learns Violent Acts Have No Repercussions.”

“Would you ever get in a taxi that ran you over?” I asked. Without breaking contact with the game the boy responded, “The A.I. is dumb,” referring to the code controlling the behavior of his passengers.

I love this anecdote from Global Kids‘ Barry Joseph because it illustrates how kids have a way of navigating the perimeters of media to mod them beyond the limits of their intended uses. Here Joseph talks about a kid who found his own path in Grand Theft Auto (Remember folks, it’s only a game. Really). I also appreciate how Barry made a point of talking with the kid before judging his behavior. Disclaimer: Barry and I are both authors in the MacArther Foundation’s book series on digital learning in the 21st Century.

All I wanted was a Pepsi: oppositional defiant disorder (ODD)

A blast from the past (what’ya think of the punk/cholo crossover fashion?)

AlterNet: Health and Wellness: How Teenage Rebellion Has Become a Mental Illness:

Disruptive young people who are medicated with Ritalin, Adderall and other amphetamines routinely report that these drugs make them “care less” about their boredom, resentments and other negative emotions, thus making them more compliant and manageable. And so-called atypical antipsychotics such as Risperdal and Zyprexa — powerful tranquilizing drugs — are increasingly prescribed to disruptive young Americans, even though in most cases they are not displaying any psychotic symptoms.

Back in the day (early ’80s) I remember that a lot of punks were treated by the society as if they were insane. Now, if the above article is correct, the problem of medicating rebellious youth for “oppositional defiant disorder” is epedimic. Damn, if punk were new today we’d be drugged and labeled as terrorists. Makes one nostalgic for the Reagan years.

The song by Suicidal Tendencies, “Institutionalized,” captures the problem perfectly:

Sometimes I try to do things and it just doesn’t turn out the way I wanted to. I get real frustrated and I try hard to do it and I take my time and it just doesn’t work out the way I wanted to. It seems like I concentrate on it real hard but it just never work out. Everything I do and everything I try never turns out. It’s like I need time to figure these things out. But there’s always someone there going. Hey Mike: You know we’ve been noticing you’ve been having a lot of problems lately. You know, maybe you should get away and like, maybe you should talk about it, maybe you’ll feel a lot better. And I go: No it’s okay, you know I’ll figure it out, just leave me alone I’ll figure it out. You know I’ll just work it all by myself. And they go: Well you know if you want to talk about it I’ll be here you know and you’ll probably feel a lot better if you talk about it. Why don’t you talk about it? And I go: No I don’t want to I’m okay, I’ll figure it out myself and they just keep bugging me and they just keep bugging me and it builds up inside and it builds up inside.
So you’re gonna be institutionalized. You’ll come out brainwashed with bloodshot eyes.
You won’t have any say. They’ll brainwash you until you see their way.

I’m not crazy – institutionalized
You’re the one who’s crazy – institutionalized
You’re driving me crazy – institutionalized
They stuck me in an institution, said it was the only solution
To give me the needed professional help to protect me from the enemy, myself

Click here to read the rest.
Suicidal Tendencies - Suicidal Tendencies - Institutionalized

Incidentally, if this is any measure of the cultural Zeitgeist, apparently “Institutinalized” is featured in the video game, Guitar Hero 2. Here’s a clip that some gamer posted. Man, life is weird!

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A coloring book childhood


My knee jerk reaction to MGA Bratz The Movie Movie Making Set with Sharidan was, “Oh God, here we go again, pushing hypersexual celebrityhood on girls.” But when I watched the little demo video on Amazon I discovered that is this is kinda a cool tool. The movie camera actually works, enabling kids to make stop motion animation. Now, I agree with my grandfather, who was an arts educator and painter, that coloring books are a bad thing because it’s better to free your creativity and not to be confined by boundaries. In a sense this Bratz toy is also like a coloring book: it allows the child to “fill” specific perimeters, such as the gender-specific starlet archetype, which ultimately is unhealthy. But maybe out there is some artsy girl (or boy as some gender-bender parents may have gifted) that will discover the world of animation from this little toy. When I was a kid I played with GI Joe and was able to construct alternate worlds with my “doll” that did not conform to the usual stereotypes.

But… I have to admit that once I saw the price tag and the Movie Mansion accessory (see below), my draw dropped. Are toys really that expensive now? Who can afford this crap? I think money would be better spent on a Flip camera instead, coloring books be damned!


Do media destroy children’s minds? Updated


AlterNet: MediaCulture: So You Think You Can Raise a Brand-Free Kid?:

“I think we’re seen as consumers…how much wallet share do kids have, and how much can they influence our spending.”

Yet the push to buy doesn’t jive with the values these parents want to instill in their own kids — values like critical thinking, individuality and sustainable living.

I’m sorry but the prevailing wisdom that branding destroys kid’s minds is wrong. Bad parenting destroys, or at least hinders, childhood development. Stop blaming corporations. Branding does not prevent critical thinking, only censoring the dominant reality does. This doesn’t mean that I agree with branding to kids, but it’s the parents that need education. Talk to your kids about media– they are intelligent. But don’t block reality from them, it will only make it more attractive.

PS: I posted the above comment at Alternet where the article in question was posted, and I notice that the readers over their don’t like what I have to say (my comment is rating at 2 on a scale of 1 to 5). It occurs to me that on the surface that I may come across like a pro-media capitalist, but nothing would be further from the truth. I just no longer agree with all the fear mongering concerning media. Part of that requires a long back story and my book (out next April!) that explains more clearly why I came to this point. Regular readers of my blog will pick up on the reasons here and there.

I think the problem in general with media activism is that it adheres to a one to many mass media model of communication without acknowledging that we are in a transition to a many to many communication environment. The assumption– especially coming from the Adbuster folks– is that they believe we are injected with all this evil ideology– when the situation is far more complex. We exist in a mental ecosystem that is also composed of countervailing influences. The reason I was able to become my own person despite the total mediation of my youth was that I had parents interested in art and education, I was a punk rocker which required using media as our art, and other intangibles I can’t explain. The point is that I had a strong immune system that made the messages I was exposed to less “sticky.”

I realize the word “media educator” could sound nefarious. After all, isn’t advertising “media education” on how to be good consumers? Media educators teach media literacy, but I hate that term, because it implies that if we learned to understand media like books we would be smarter and better, and this is not true. I agree with Marshal McLuhan that current media is just an extension of the thought forms that were codified by the alphabet and printing press. So if people want to get pissed about the current state of media, consider how books have destroyed our communal way of thinking (because books make us silent, isolated experiencers of knowledge). I’m not anti-book, but all this media bashing is also not addressing the problem.

Having grown up around a lot of kids who survived hippie communes, I can say this with great confidence. Many of those kids denied McDonalds, sugar, and TV just indugled in it in more extremes until it got out of their systems. Then they became stock brokers and real estate agents. No joke. Anyhow, my message is to stop being scared of media and believe more strongly in your capacity to withstand brainwashing. Call me an optimist, but i believe in the innate intelligence of human beings to know the difference between bullshit and what is good for them, even if it’s delayed sometimes due to poor environmental conditions (i.e. closed communities, poor education, bad diet, etc).

Did you know…

Some interesting facts about Asian youth.

The threebillion project was asked to put together a video on-behalf of MTV Asia for the Music Matters conference last week in Hong Kong.

The brief was to create a facts’n’stats video dedicated to Asian youth. However, when you consider that 61% of the world’s three billion people youth live in Asia, it is pretty apparent that no-one will ever quantify everything and certainly not in a 3 minute video.

Whether it be teenage marriage in India, mobile phone usage in Japan, Filipino TV watching or Saudi Arabian Bluetooth porn, each market is rich it’s own brand of youth culture. This video is dedicated to the best thirty six facts we could find.

CNN’s lost generation

Sometimes I wish CNN would just roll over and die. An announcement they are creating a news bureau in Second Life confirms that they are trend followers, and are no longer innovators. Yeah, so maybe a 24/7 news network was once a brilliant idea, but with the Web, who cares? Having failed at emulating the Fox News effect (by proliferating right wing news commentators through out their broadcasts) and comedy (by trying to inject Daily News antics here and there), they are now looking for salvation in user generated media, but the thing that they forget is that they are a huge multinational corporation. How does their business model jive with the new media revolution? Hence the humor of the following anecdote from youth media advocate Anastasia Goodstein:

Ypulse: Media for the Next Generation:

… when I was visiting CNN, they were talking about how to get young people to upload their own news video — one person remarked that they have been getting one kind of interesting video from teenagers: video imitating CNN anchors. Teens would create their own satirical skits making fun of the news and upload it to CNN (“The Daily Show” effect?).

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Thinking ahead

Belout College’s annual list of how the leaders of the future will know the world. An interesting list that is at times more snarky commentary on the present than insights about the real thinking habits of young people.

Beloit College Public Affairs:

The Mindset List is not a chronological listing of things that happened in the year that the entering first-year students were born.

Our effort is to identify a worldview of 18 year-olds in the fall of 2007. We take a risk in some cases of making generalizations, particularly given that our students at Beloit College for instance come from every state and scores of nations.

The “Class of 2011” refers to students entering college this year. They are generally 18 which suggests they were born in 1989.

The list identifies the experiences and event horizons of students as they commence higher education and is not meant to reflect on their preparatory education.

And the list is…


Most of the students entering College this fall, members of the Class of 2011, were born in 1989. For them, Alvin Ailey, Andrei Sakharov, Huey Newton, Emperor Hirohito, Ted Bundy, Abbie Hoffman, and Don the Beachcomber have always been dead.

1. What Berlin wall?
2. Humvees, minus the artillery, have always been available to the public.
3. Rush Limbaugh and the “Dittoheads” have always been lambasting liberals.
4. They never “rolled down” a car window.
5. Michael Moore has always been angry and funny.
6. They may confuse the Keating Five with a rock group.
7. They have grown up with bottled water.
8. General Motors has always been working on an electric car.
9. Nelson Mandela has always been free and a force in South Africa.
10. Pete Rose has never played baseball. Continue reading

Power to the people: may the Millennials inherit the Earth

AlterNet: What the World Might Look Like When the Millennials Run It:

“Two things represent my generation,” concludes Chris Hales, 25-year-old CEO of Anti-Matter Media a Chicago-based multimedia company. “Technology and the ‘Do-It-Yourself’ aesthetic. With the increase of technology, opportunities for networking with others seem endless, enabling us to turn out more authors, films, record labels and artists than previous generations. When you put the two together you have the recipe for a generation that is willing to go out and make stuff happen on their own.”

Cute but bogus gender-typing is all the rage among tween and teen marketers. I haven’t tried it myself, but judging from these two ads, it seems to promote the opportunity to transform yourself, yet I don’t really see any substance there. It showcases standard gender roles (females as sexual, males as physically active) and defines change according to what kinds of clothes can be consumed.


Also notice in this screen grab from the site’s opening page how the boy gazes upon the girl, repeating the typical trope of the female as sexual object to be consumed by the male predator.

Sorry to be so puritanical, but Zwinkyland strikes me as a little bogus.

Smells like pre-teen spirit


Gee, what will they think of next? A cologne that actually smells like a pirate? Kids will really love that!

New Products: Disney Sees Market For Pre-Teen Fragrances:

While fragrance as part of a daily regimen for younger males is new, it is a growing trend even among older consumers in mainstream markets, said John Bauersfeld, vp-sales for fragrances at Camrose Trading, Miami, the U.S. distributor for the new products. “Look at the success of Axe [body spray]. It targets [males] 18-24 years, but ages 12-and-up are buying it like it’s going out of style. The age of [male] fragrance wearers is moving down.”

The seven deadly sins of kid culture

According to CURT HOLMAN, the seven deadly sins of kid culture are:


While I agree that seeing these attitudes expressed in media for youth is troubling, I’d like to argue that kids have their own culture independent of media (this is not to say it is influenced by media). I disagree with authors when the see children role playing TV shows as bad. Kids always role play, and I find the adult culture much more dangerous than what is being streamed to kids. Besides, look at the kind of role playing certain arm chair militarists are doing as they toy with people’s lives while they project their fantasy of virility upon the youth soldiers of the world.

I disagree with the solution stated below, which is to cut off the source. I think it is far better to let children be exposed to the world but to discuss it and teach them to critically engage what they are experience. This is coming from someone who grew up on a lot of TV (at least 4-6 hours a day) and as someone who used to role play such horrible programs like the Six Million Dollar Man and S.W.A.T. You may disagree, but I don’t think I’m damaged as a result.

The seven deadly sins of kid culture: One dad runs interference against the worst of children’s entertainment: Cover Story: Cover: Creative Loafing Atlanta:

For now, the Seven Deadly Sins of Kid Culture – or as I like to call them, Blandy, Bratty, Dippy, Bleedy, Gassy, Trampy and Jar Jar – can be exhausting opponents. Because of them, however, I appreciate the children’s arts that my daughter and I discover together all the more, such as the graphic novel Owly by Lilburn’s Andy Runton, or the catchy, hook-laden songs of Laurie Berkner, or the new Pixar movies.

But being well-rounded isn’t the only virtue I want to encourage in my daughter. The best way to fight the seven deadly sins is to cut off, shut down and unplug all their sources of entry. Even the best things about kid culture, even Ratatouille, can’t compare to a walk in the park.

Children of war

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Two summers ago I was mugged at gunpoint. The experience was terribly traumatic and took a tremendous amount of therapy and meditation to heal from. After that my commitment to nonviolence deepened, and I felt even more strongly that these kinds of traumas are reasons why everyone should be against war. So it saddens me, but also confirms my worst expectations, that the war on Iraq has greatly affected children. The number US casualties is sad enough, but when you factor in the lifelong damage this war is causing for thousands of the survivors, I can’t imagine a single argument that would justify inflicting this kind of psychological pain on anyone. Shame on the warmongers!

The following report explains in more detail how the war is hurting children. It does not mention the broken families of US soldiers, but alas that is another story that needs to be told and amplified to stop this insanity.

Iraqi Youth Face Lasting Scars of War –

In a World Health Organization survey of 600 children ages 3 to 10 in Baghdad last year, 47 percent said they had been exposed to a major traumatic event over the past two years. Of this group, 14 percent showed symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder. In a second study of 1,090 adolescents in the northern city of Mosul, 30 percent showed symptoms of the disorder.

Today, toy weapons are among the best-selling items in local markets, and kids play among armored vehicles on streets where pickup trucks filled with masked gunmen are a common sight. On a recent day, a group of children was playing near a camouflage-colored Iraqi Humvee parked in Baghdad’s upscale Karrada neighborhood. One boy clutched a thick stick and placed it on his right shoulder, as if he were handling a rocket-propelled grenade launcher. He aimed it at cars passing by, pretending to blow them up. Two soldiers pointed at the children and laughed.

Many of the children Abdul Muhsin treats have witnessed killings. They have anxiety problems and suffer from depression. Some have recurring nightmares and wet their beds. Others have problems learning in school. Iraqi children, he said, show symptoms not unlike children in other war zones such as Lebanon, Sudan and the Palestinian territories.