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Film as Identity Exploration: A Multimodal Analysis of Youth-Produced Films


by Erica Rosenfeld Halverson — 2010

Background/Context: Researchers have begun to document and understand the work youth do as they compose in multiple media including video games, online virtual worlds, participatory fan cultural practices, and in the digital media arts. However, we lack mechanisms for analyzing the products, especially when it comes to understanding the relationship between storytelling and identity.

Objective: In this article, I bring together prior research on youth-produced media, social semiotic analysis frameworks for analyzing these products and the formal analysis of films to construct an analytic framework for understanding youth-produced films as spaces for identity construction and representation.

Research design: The research reported on in this article is the design and illustration of an analytic framework for understanding how youth construct and represent their identities through the films they make. The framework design begins with Kress and van Leeuwen’s (2006) work on the analysis of visual design as a set of semiotic resources for describing how we make meaning with multimodal texts. However, this work does little to depict how the specific tools of film both cinematic (e.g., editing, cinematography) and filmic (music, action) (Burn & Parker, 2003) are used to construct and communicate identities. Therefore, I turn to film theory to develop a coding scheme that can assist in the meaningful interpretation of the phases and transitions of youth-produced films. I then illustrate this framework in action by analyzing one youth-produced film, Rules of Engagement, as a multimodal product of identity.

Conclusions/Recommendations: This analysis demonstrates how films like Rules of Engagement display the construction of a viable social identity primarily through the interactions among filmic elements. Specifically it is in the transition spaces between phases of the film where youth actively insert their understanding of how to represent complex portraits of how they see themselves, how others see them, and how they fit into their communities. Analyzing the products of a rich, complex literacy practice is a critical way to make sense of how youth engage with issues of identity through the media they create. This is especially important for youth who feel marginalized in mainstream institutions and do not have opportunities to explore a positive sense of self in traditional institutional contexts. Understanding how the construction of multimodal representation supports identity development processes can help us to bring these new media literacy practices to youth who are most in need of alternative mechanisms for engaging in positive identity work.



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Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record Volume 112 Number 9, 2010, p. 2352-2378
http://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 15948, Date Accessed: 3/26/2017 3:28:21 AM

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About the Author
  • Erica Halverson
    University of Wisconsin-Madison
    E-mail Author
    ERICA ROSENFELD HALVERSON is an assistant professor of Educational Psychology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Halverson’s research focuses on the relationship between identity development and literacy learning in spaces where adolescents tell, adapt, and perform the stories of their lives. Recent publications include, “From One Woman to Everyman: Reportability and Credibility in Publicly Performed Narratives,” in Narrative Inquiry (2008); and “InsideOut: Facilitating Gay Youth Identity Development Through a Performance-Based Youth Organization,” in Identity: An International Journal of Theory and Research (2005).
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