Moving beyond 'Y' - the children of New Times
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As one engages with the current literature on globalization, cybersocieties, media, and consumer culture, it becomes clear that the technological and socio-cultural changes shaping contemporary life are creating uncertain terrain for researchers in the field of youth studies. As adults we inhabit the same places as youth but in many ways we are immigrants to their worlds. The 'habitus' (Bourdieu, 1984) of those born before the 1980s lacked the virtual 'thirdspaces' (Soja, 1996) of possibility that are simply routine elements of the worlds of many young people today. Soja's concept of 'thirdspace' is similar to Foucault's heterotopia (Foucault, cited in Soja, 1995) - a counter-site - "a kind of effectively enacted utopia in which all the real sites, all the other real sites that can be found within the culture are, simultaneously represented, contested, and inverted" (14). It offers a leap into radical ways of being in which 'spaces' are created to facilitate new perspectives on identity. However, given the variety and growing complexities of on-line human interactions enabled by the technological revolution, I believe that Virtualspace is a more comprehensive concept. I shall discuss both ideas at greater length later in this essay. I believe that here is a need for caution when speculating about the experience of being young in the early twenty-first century. As Dillabough (2009) says, there is a "pressing need for a reflexive awareness of the extent and complexity of the challenges of the field" (p. 213). Point-in-time snapshots of youthful lives may be misleading unless contextualized within historical and sociological narratives that incorporate temporal perspectives (McLeod and Yates, 2006), as well as the perspectives of young people themselves. In the growing field of youth studies, it is sometimes the case that theoretical frameworks may pre-empt readings of data before empirical work has been undertaken. According to Dillabough (2009): Theory is often identified or conflated with the data themselves. In other words, theory emerges as the dominating source of information 堗hat we as readers often fail to realize in this process is the power of theory to guide our readings of young people or the ways in which the theory impacts on the formation of knowledge about young people. In such cases, theory itself emerges as a form of surveillance over the field and much research in youth studies can be read in relation to this kind of surveillance (p. 224). It is against this background of cautionary observations that I intend to analyse a range of theories about contemporary youth foregrounded in a recent publication edited by Nadine Dolby and Fazal Rizvi, Youth Moves: identities and education in global perspective. This book is an edited collection of twelve chapters, each individually authored and providing different thematic connections to the text's overall theme of "youth moving in and across shifting global terrains" (Dimitriadis, 2008, x). The insights of the authors of this collection are theoretically astute. In my judgement, they serve as useful starting points for grounded research into the lives of young people as they negotiate the unpredictable and uneven consequences of historical, sociological and technological changes.
Discourse: Studies in the Cultural Politics of Education
Copyright 2010 Routledge. This is an electronic version of an article published in Discourse, Volume 31, Issue 3, 2010, pages 377-392. Discourse is available online at: http://www.informaworld.com with the open URL of your article.
Education not elsewhere classified