Growing up in a rural town, I was always fascinated with how kids my age lived in big urban cities. Even going on a rare trip to a big city elicited much excitement in me, and I remember sitting in the backseat of the car looking out at kids on the street and taking note of how they dressed, acted, where they hung out, etc. I was a different kid, and at the time I think I would have fit in better in a bigger city. I was also a voracious reader and seemed to enjoy reading about how city kids lived. While I am now an adult and have had the opportunity to visit big cities, I realize they aren’t for me, but I am still fascinated with how people in them live. In fact, I recently watched a very good short documentary last fall that the New York Times produced titled “Kids of New York City.” I highly recommend it and found it to be highly fascinating.

This week, while perusing our class story/case study bank for a project to critique, I noted there was a project involving digital storytelling among young people in the San Francisco bay area. According to our class website, “Medium publication, Matter, worked with a class of high school seniors in the San Francisco Bay Area to explore teenage life in the Bay Area. Through a series of projects — some written, others visual — the students told their own stories and captured a vibrant portrait of their lives.” There are two links for this project:

What’s it really like to be 18 in America right now?

18 in the Bay

This project involved seniors who attended a high school in the SF Bay area producing multimedia that focused on their lives and what matters to them. These multimedia projects included poetry, videos, music, essays, and audio stories. I felt that this was a fitting case study to critique, as this week in class we are studying how digital storytelling gives voice to individuals.

When I first began scanning through this project and learning more about what it involved, I admit to being somewhat disappointed in the format. I was used to watching documentaries or reading stories, but I wasn’t prepared for some of the more recent media formats depicted, because it first to me it looked like a bunch of Snapchat stories. However, as I got to the meat of it on the “What’s it really like to be 18 in America Right Now?” page, I was pleasantly surprised at how complex this project was. The publication, Matter, went above and beyond giving these young people any opportunity to get their voices heard through multiple formats of storytelling.

I listened, read, and watched many of the projects created by these young storytellers. One story in particular “Why I Never Believed in the Stork” left me with many questions. I wondered if the young author had ever expressed how she felt about this incident before, or if this project was the first opportunity she had to convey her feelings and tell this awful story. It was this story that really made me think that if young people were given more opportunities to share their lives and stories through digital storytelling, that perhaps they would feel like they had a voice. Another project that I really liked was the Survival Guide to High School. I thought this was well-written and I think young teens reading this may actually listen to the advice because it was written by a peer.

While I really enjoyed this project, my one complaint is that I wish there were more visual pieces to this project. I appreciate being able to see people and how they live. It’s fascinating to me how city kids dress, because they are often on the forefront of trends and these trends differ between regions in the United States. I also wish there were more video projects. It did seem to be heavy on the essays, and while they were very good, they tended to be pretty short.

Overall I thought this project was eye-opening and an extremely valuable piece of storytelling. I think it is valuable because it is allowing young people to have a voice. I would enjoy seeing other projects like this among kids from different parts of the United States, because it would be interesting to see the differences.