Supporting young people as they emerge and develop as speakers in communication systems
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By Dr. Guillermo Orozco, México.
If anything currently distinguishes young lives, we would bet it be their positioning in the digital world. A positioning that is both a cultural and communicational survival in a world full of inequalities, fragmented identities and social, political and economic differences. The challenges that this offers for young people, and for those adults who accompany them, are many. First of course one must locate oneself within a participatory culture. This in turn means assuming a capacity to produce and communicate meanings, to be able to appropriate different communicative roles as active receptors and producers of analytical messages that could become parts of critical discourse. Conversation implies developing several capacities and skills: for listening, for self-expression, to enable information processing, for use of interpretation and validation criteria, for logics of argumentation and inference, etc. Meaningful conversation implies having previously overcome the limitations to equal access of information and knowledge historically subjected to structural conditions of marginality and exclusion for some social sectors. It makes no sense to view conversation as a superficial exchange based on commercial formats and formulas, but instead to conceive of communicative strategies necessarily implemented to rid us of silencing logics submitted upon oppressed peoples by the dominating power groups.
As never before it is imperative to transcend the instrumental domain implicit in the multi-directional connectivity that communicative technologies demand. It is necessary to cojure up complex and multiple literacies which contain emancipatory and critical possibilities to be expressed in several languages, formats and logic of conversation. The oppressive life conditions of existing masses of people all over the world require subverting previous authoritarian communication, where only a few exercised the right to speak their word.
The contemporary illusions offered by new technologies that reveal interactive excitement, to the extent they concentrate their potency only within the instrumental domain tend to hide substantive differences between young people’s communications. This state of affairs leads to the false idea that when one is connected through social networks, there will automatically exist just and equal conditions for respectful exchange of ideas for all participants involved. While one may accept that communication has become a field so central to contemporary social life, each time more and more central to people’s entertainment aspirations, it is also a dimension where corruption, discrimination and institutionalized repression by the powers that be are made invisible or, just the opposite, attain an unexpected visibility. Power is exercised, won or lost, through communication and, in particular, by means of communicative technologies. Major influences of young minds, and the seduction and manipulation of public and individual opinion become realities through the printed word, through images and sounds, in news programming as fiction. And this is why the strengthening of everyone’s capacity to develop a voice, to become speakers and listeners in individual and collective ways, is really one of the ways to exercise counter-hegemonic practices, to become powerful in ways that matter. Needless to say, it is our youth to whom we must turn for hope in creating a better world for humanity.