Millennial Girls and Digital Power

Curator's Note

 Veronica Mars, Gossip Girl, Pretty Little Liars, and Revenge all depict millennial girls or young women negotiating an adult world full of corruption. The young women in these series are attuned to digital and physical dangers, especially to the dangers of sexual violence and digital surveillance. In these series, cell phones and laptops become tools used by millennial girls to uncover inescapable corruption that crosses generations. They also become tools for giving voice to millennial female perspectives, as millennial women use technology to shape the plot, connect with one another, and to guide viewer experience of the narrative.

I made this vid to explore these ideas as I was (and still am) writing a book chapter on the same topic. Bringing the visuals of the four series together really drove home for me (and, I hope, for the viewer) the significance of this recurring image of the teen girl with her cell phone/laptop/computer. I mean for this video to present the entrapment of young women in media technologies as the problem, and yet to simultaneously pose the answer precisely in young women’s use of technology as a tool of power, as a weapon, and as a tool of connectivity. I wanted to bring these series into conversation with each other and with academic thought on the importance of media literacy (and media literacy extending to media production) for teens in general and teen girls specifically. Thus, though it might seem a bit of a jump, I decided to weave text from Mary Kearney’s writing from Girls Make Media (Routledge, 2006) throughout the vid.

The process of making this vid has given me new insight into my topic and I hope brings to the fore the potential significance of this recurring image of the digitally-active young woman (or of a collective of digitally-active young women, indeed crossing individual series and media texts). Just as the vid posits the potential power in engaging with digital technologies for young women, I’m sharing this vid here to suggest that, in the spirit of In Media Res, the ever-evolving traditions of digital participatory culture (including but not limited to vids) have potential to provide us with new insights and to encourage conversations that move beyond academia into the dynamic spaces of digital culture.

 

Comments

Amy Hasinoff's picture

Thanks for the post Louisa, I

Thanks for the post Louisa, I love that you’re looking at girls and technology in a complex way, accounting for both the risks and the opportunities. I really can’t wait to read your book! Also, I think your use of Kearney is great—I find her really useful for my work on sexting as a form of media production, though I think what I’m doing with it is a bit of a jump as well. :)

Louisa Stein's picture

Yes, I love the way Girls

Yes, I love the way Girls Make Media is both specific but has concepts with much wider application, definitely! I noticed the intersection in our foci as well—I’d very much like to hear more about your work. I’m really fascinated by the increasing prevalence, to the degree as you put it that it’s now almost commonplace, of the trope of the girl blogger or tech/digital savvy girl producer. I’m really interested in the way millennials (and especially millennial girls) are imagined as both hopeful problem-solvers and savvy, threatening boundary breakers.. I’d love to hear how you see sexting fitting into the equation.

Amy Hasinoff's picture

ah yes, the old “can-do girl”

ah yes, the old “can-do girl” vs “at-risk girl,” as Anita Harris puts it! I think it’s especially true with the way we tend to see girls’ media use and technology use. I am fascinated by the way that we often celebrate girls’ media production but demonize it when it involves any sexuality. I would love to know what you think of my article about this.

Louisa Stein's picture

Oh, terrific, thank you for

Oh, terrific, thank you for the link! I look forward to reading it!

Karen Petruska's picture

new ways to create scholarship

I absolutely love this video, and I’m really interested in how your work creating it has shaped your writing. What role does the video play in your book chapter—is it something you describe as a methodology? Or was the video more like pre-writing—something you create for yourself (or to share with fans), but something that does not (yet) have a place in traditional scholarship?

Louisa Stein's picture

Karen, thanks so much! I

Karen, thanks so much! I really appreciate In Media Res giving me a place to share this type of non-traditional work that doesn’t quite fit into one arena or the other, at least not yet.

I haven’t yet written the videos into an overt methodology (though I am thinking of doing one for each chapter of my book), because at first I hadn’t really imagined the close relationship they’d have, or that I’d be sharing them in academic space (or that they could have such an academic bent.) I’d say that I imaging them functioning as a simultaneous process, but that the alternate form allows me to get at different ideas in different ways, and to reach a different audience. I don’t know that I’d change that structure, even with more pre-thought; I wouldn’t necessarily want to privilege one over the other, but rather allow them to be in conversation with one another. But it’s something I’m still thinking through and would love to talk through with others who are doing similar experiments.

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