- Mediated Youth Cultures: The Internet, Belonging and New Cultural Configurations eds. by Andy Bennett and Brady Robards
In 2015, danah boyd authored an ethno-graphically oriented book on teens and social media, a timely and relevant contribution to examinations of youth culture in the twenty-first century.1 One of her key conclusions is that "fears that surround teens' use of social media overlook … [teens'] fundamental desire for social connection."2 While often focusing on youth past their teen years, this same tenet nevertheless lies at the heart of the 2014 anthology Mediated Youth Cultures: The Internet, Belonging and New Cultural Configurations, edited by Andy Bennett and Brady Robards, both of whom have contributed work in the domain of youth studies as well.3 Ostensibly [End Page 164] about the Internet, per its title, the anthology's key focus is in fact on belonging and how facets of the Internet have shifted the terrain for understanding youth attempts to situate themselves among the communities that surround them.
Most of the authors featured in this collection strive to give voice to actual young people and to provide a sense of sociocultural context beyond the immediate phenomena they are examining. This is a tall order for any author in an anthology, and at times the book could have benefited from some editorial guidance with regard to achieving such goals in a balanced manner. Still, most book-length research in the domain of youth studies comprises single tomes or very narrowly focused anthologies, thus making Mediated Youth Cultures useful to those studying in this area. Attempting to be broad in scope, the collection is structured around three parts ("Online and Offline Identities," "Engagement and Creativity," and "Bodies, Spaces, and Places"), moving from the foundational to the increasingly specific while engaging with a relatively eclectic mix of academic approaches.
Part 1 centers on the complexities of identity formation in the age of the Internet, seeking to dispel common myths and fears about the selves young people present online, which so often bewilder those who did not grow up with social media. Katie Davis's piece on teens from Bermuda reveals that teenagers do not conceptualize themselves as splintered between their online and offline lives; while they may express more online than in person, there is a consistency of identity rooted largely in peers' expectations of friends acting similarly in both environments.4 Both Brady Robards's work on Facebook's timeline features and Sian Lincoln's examination of individually created online spaces as extensions of bedroom culture focus on the ways in which youth craft and recraft identity in a reflexive manner that includes awareness of others as an integral part of self-understanding.5 Each chapter highlights identity formation as constantly in flux and demanding much work from the individual, and reveals distinctly twenty-first-century ways in which this work occurs, given the ubiquity of social media spaces in youth culture. Bringing together the threads of these starter pieces is an article from Ian Goodwin, Antonia Lyons, Christine Griffin, and Tim McCreanor that examines the phenomenon of young adults posting online photos of themselves and friends drinking.6 Part of a government-funded research project, this stands out as one of the best pieces in some time about a specific element of youth culture (which predates the Internet, yet has been distinctively altered by it).7 Neither panicking about nor brushing aside excessive drinking among young people—and the online documentation of alcohol use—the authors contextualize their descriptions of mediated drinking cultures in relation to both identity formation and the current first-world historical context of identity being tied tightly to displayable consumption. [End Page 165]
Goodwin and colleagues' specificity leads effectively into part 2, which revolves around distinct creative productions online. Kate Douglas and Anna Poletti trace a history of female diary writing to web endeavors related to zines and community arts projects.8 Carmel Vaisman examines Israblog (the largest Hebrew...