This research strand explores everyday digital media production and consumption within LGBTQ youth communities with the aim to gain an up to date insight into the exploitation of digital and social media for political advocacy by younger generations of LGBTQ identified people; to conceptualize the digital cultural strategies that LGBTQ youth adopt in order to cope and thrive; and to situate these digital cultures in relation to a particular social change ‘legacy’, that of the late 20th century sexual rights movement.
Central to this research is Jenzen’s collaboration with the Brighton based LGBTQU youth organisation Allsorts. Through a combination of participatory research methods, discourse and visual analysis the research brings together two fields of inquiry: the study of LGBTQ popular culture (Jenzen 2010, 2012, 2013) and the field of digital media studies.
A recent article 'Trans youth and social media: moving between counterpublics and the wider web' (Gender, Place & Culture: A Journal of Feminist Geography, 2017) focuses on conceptualising the digital cultural strategies that trans and gender questioning youth adopt both as social media users and producers in order to cope and thrive. Drawing on ethnographic data detailing a group of trans youth’s engagements with LGBTQ social media counterpublics and the wider web, and their movement between these spheres, in combination with close readings of online material identified as salient by the participants, the article argues that in the face of rampant transphobia and cis coded online paradigms, trans youth respond both critically and creatively. More specifically, it highlights how they resist prescribed user protocols of mainstream social networking sites as well as employ pragmatic strategies for navigating a binary gendered online world, staking out their own methods and aesthetics for self expression and community formation.
In a previous piece 'Make, share, care: social media and LGBTQ youth engagement' (with Irmi Karl, Ada: A Journal of Gender, New Media, and Technology, 2014) we look specifically at how grassroots organisations like Allsorts can develop their strategies for using social media in outreach work supporting isolated LGBTQU youth. Together we seek to influence technological innovation, education and policy from young people’s perspective. Reaching the hard to reach requires strategies that go beyond creating a social media presence. By working closely with both young service users and youth volunteers we aim to not only understand their social media use, but also how digital and social media link to things like identity and well being. For example, findings from our research to date indicate that the most marginalised group – transgender and gender queer young people – actively seek out alternative social media platforms with a more open ended structure than what you would get on SNSs like Facebook. We have also found that LGBTQ young people do not rate anonymity as a benefit of using online communication as high. Rather, they welcome the fact that staff and volunteers with whom they are interacting are visible as ‘out’ lesbian, gay, bi or transgender people. To be able to communicate openly and safely is a significant benefit to the young people at Allsorts.The project has also yielded a number of paper presentations and a round table plenary ‘Mediating Trans* Youth: Sexual cultures, youth engagement work and education in/through social media making’ at the Academia Meets Activism conference at the Centre for Research in Media and Cultural Studies, University of Sunderland, 8-10 April 2015, co-presented with youth work practitioners and co-researchers from Allsorts. Another co-produced publication from this research strand is the Social Media @ Allsorts case study in the Creative Citizens’ Variety Pack: Inspiring digital ideas from community projects (2014), which Jenzen jointly authored with youth volunteers at the organisation.