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From their own voices: Understanding youth identity play and multimodal literacy practices through digital storytelling

, University of California, Los Angeles, United States

University of California, Los Angeles . Awarded


In recent years, there has been an increase in technological innovations and new digital media. Growing numbers of youth, in particular, use digital media for several hours a day (Lenhart, Madden, & Hitlin, 2005; Roberts, Foehr, & Rideout, 2005). One fundamental outcome of youth's experiences with digital media is that they get to express themselves through new forms of communication. This dissertation study focuses on children and adolescent's self-expression using one such technological innovation, digital storytelling, a literacy practice in which youth use different media, including digital pictures, music, and text, to help them tell a story about an important aspect of their lives and social worlds. They narrate their story and digitize it into a movie format. This dissertation study examines youth identity play and multimodal literacy practices through these digital storytelling activities.

My research took place at Las Redes Fifth Dimension After School Program with children aged six to ten and in the UCLA Statewide Migrant Student Leadership Institute (MSLI) with adolescents aged 14 to 17. Both programs are imaginary worlds, called tertiary artifacts (Wartofsky, 1979), in which the participants are given tools to think about the possibilities of their lives in productive, new ways. Digital storytelling was one such tool. To study the effects of children and adolescents' participation in digital storytelling, I collected a variety of data sources: twenty digital stories (two-to-four minute videos) to document the products of digital storytelling and videotapes, field notes, and memos to document the daily processes of digital storytelling. I used qualitative methods to analyze youth engagement with these new media.

Results show the role that digital literacies play when they are a part of activity settings organized around robust notions of learning. In this study, the children and adolescents shared significant stories and dreams for their lives and communities. I show the benefits and limitations of digital storytelling as sites for productive identity play and multimodal literacy practices for non-dominant youth. This dissertation highlights the impact of meaningful access to new technologies in innovative learning environments on youth identity and literacy practices.


Nixon, A.S. From their own voices: Understanding youth identity play and multimodal literacy practices through digital storytelling. Ph.D. thesis, University of California, Los Angeles. Retrieved October 15, 2019 from .

This record was imported from ProQuest on October 23, 2013. [Original Record]

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