The use of multi-media archives to support student curriculum work on aspirations: reflecting on past, present and the emergent future

Year: 2013

Author: Bok, Jessica, Davidson, Kristy, Brennan, Marie

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

Dominant narratives about disadvantaged communities tend to be based in deficit assumptions about their collective cultural and social experience, and are produced about, not by, those communities. These hegemonic narratives are often operationalised by government policies, as evidenced in the Review of Australian Higher Education (Bradley et al., 2008), which places normative value judgments on capacities to aspire (Appadurai, 2004) among ‘low SES' young people (Bok, 2010). These negative limitations on social imaginaries become entangled with the ‘hopes, fears, aspirations and dreams' of young people (Hutchinson, 1996, p.15), constricting the potential for positive and creative imaginings towards future possibilities. The ARC project Capacitating Student Aspirations in Classrooms and Communities of a High Poverty Region (DP120101492) aims to work with young people to interrupt these predominant narratives so that they can participate as active agents in the construction of more authentic, relevant, and proactive social imaginaries.
With these aims in mind, we have been developing a research database to resource the curriculum work of Year 9 and 10 students across the projects' work with three schools in the Western Region of Melbourne. Resources chosen encompass various aspects of life that may influence, or have influenced, past, present, and possible futures of communities in each locale. The database includes innovative juxtaposition of social media materials - such as blog posts, Facebook and Twitter memes, and YouTube footage - with more traditional media such as newspaper reports, historical photographs, local area demographics, and other research reports. Along with an account of our archival processes, this paper discusses the rationale behind the selection of material for inclusion in the database. We expand on how resources across various forms of media can be used curricularly (1) to facilitate students' critical social negotiation of negative discourses about their capacities to aspire (implicating class, race, gender, sexual orientation and other power relations); and (2) to capacitate student agency to imagine, articulate and pursue emergent and desirable futures, as social actors in-and-for communities.