Finding our Voices in our Pockets

Introduction:

I conducted an interview and research study to identify in order to assess smartphone usage and photojournalism education amongst a group of adults.

Executive Summary:

While most young adults consider themselves to be avid smartphone users, they rarely use them to document events around them. This underutilization of this readily-available technology is what I aim to solve by expanding journalism education in high schools.

Context:

Having studied media for several years in college, I noticed that smartphone footage was becoming more predominantly featured in news broadcasts. Seeing this, I realized the journalistic potential that comes with simply having a camera and a microphone on yourself almost constantly in the form of a smartphone.

With that being said, one would expect people to be recoding all sorts of stories around them. Not just the stories that you see on their social media about what they were doing throughout the day, but deeper ones as well. Perhaps an interview with a friend or even a stranger, or maybe photographs of an old building that’s ready to be torn down. But that simply wasn’t the case. So many stories about the world around us go unnoticed and untold.

To find out why this might be happening, I first conducted an interview with a classmate who had taken journalism classes in high school, and who’d I’d seen taking photos on her phone before. I asked her about her experiences and how it shaped her worldview, and I learned that those classes had heavily influenced how she viewed and interacted with media. They taught her to look at the world in a more inquisitive way, to find the stories that had yet to be told.

After that, I distributed a survey asking participants about their high school experience, as well as how they interact with media and technology. I was looking for a connection between them having taken a journalism class, and how they use their phones to document the world around them.

The Cause:

I chose to advocate for the expansion of journalism classes in high schools because there is so much more to our everyday life than we give it credit for. If we stop and look around at what is happening around us, from the stranger on the bus or the employees of a local restaurant, to a new house being built or an old building being torn down, we’d realize that everything is happening for a reason. There is a story behind everyone and everything, and if we take the time to document it, it can help us live more in the moment.

The accessibility of smartphones, even in lower-income communities, can be used to give a voice to those less fortunate. It can help shed new light on social justice issues, and give a platform to those who might have otherwise been overlooked.

Findings:

Of all the questions in the survey, there are three that helped give the greatest insight into how journalism education affects smartphone use.

  1. Would you consider yourself an avid smartphone user?

This shows that the majority of respondents use their smartphones on a very regular basis.

2. How often do you use your smartphone to record current events?

While smartphone use is very common, the respondents seldom use their phone to document what’s around them.

3. Did you take any journalism courses in high school?

Finally, this shows that a similar number of people that often use their phones to record current events also took journalism classes in high school.

So what does this mean? It shows that there is a potential relationship between whether or not someone took journalism classes and how much they use their phone to document what they see and hear. This is further supported by the interview I conducted earlier.

Link to survey: https://forms.gle/SzyBV73TLF1NZsU56

Link to data sheet: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1GvvWQp7BtKutXylq-dL9XgLcnZsoVZIEpt0Y1zmC9M4/edit?usp=sharing

Solution Design:

My proposed solution is to expand journalism course offerings to high school students, with an emphasis on using smartphones. While teaching many of the fundamentals of a typical journalism class, it wouldn’t require students to learn how to operate a traditional camera, and instead focus on how to get the most out of what they already have.

This would run at a lower cost compared to traditional classes, as there would be no need to provide cameras or video editing software since most smartphones have both of those built in or easily accessible. This would make it easier for lower-income schools to take on. However, the biggest hurdle would be providing support for the wide variety of smartphone models students may have.

Schools would need to find instructors with the experience and technical knowledge to teach the class and help students. The class itself could be taught remotely or in-person, depending on available space. A new curriculum would need to be developed to emphasize the skills mentioned above.

Conclusion:

As shown by the survey and interview, journalism classes can influence how students view media and the world around them during their academic careers and beyond. By utilizing the tools that we are already carrying with us on a daily basis, we can find our own voice, as well as give voices to those who otherwise wouldn’t have them. Our world is constantly evolving, and constantly waiting to be explored. All it needs is someone to make the effort to uncover it.