A Critical Discussion of Participatory Research Projects with Young People Which Use Film: Stories, Narratives, Authorship and Ownership
This paper considers a series of issues that arise in participatory research (PR) projects with young people in which film is used for different reasons. We discuss three case examples, two from England and one from Canada. In each project film was used. In each film young people do a lot of the talking and their voices, stories and experiences are deliberately foregrounded in the final edits. After briefly introducing the three examples, we consider a series of questions which relate to the use of film in PR. Our focus is on exploring the reasons as well as unpicking the assumptions underlying the use of film in these projects. Drawing on Arthur W. Frank’s (2010) work (which, in turn, draws on Anne Harrington’s) regarding the distinction between narrative and stories, we consider two different possibilities about PR projects involving film. The first is that using film facilitates the involvement of young people, as well as publics beyond the academy, in discussions about a whole set of questions regarding issues such as recognition, youth identity and citizenship, by creating accessible modes of public storytelling. The second more uncomfortable possibility is that in such studies young people’s contributions are edited (and, also, often screened) by adults, who provide the narrative frameworks into which young people’s stories are inserted. If this is true, the public voicing of young people’s experience generated in these PR projects might serve to ensure that the social problems and issues of inequality they face are rendered cosmetic, as they are used to serve other people’s narratives and agendas. We finish by considering whether involvement in cultural production improves or worsens the already complex problems of involvement, ownership, authorship and ethics in PR.