Am I Worth It? Crowdsourcing and Critical Pedagogy

by guest blogger Dalitso Ruwe.

“Look at the weak and cry, pray one day you’ll be strong
Fighting for your rights, even when you’re wrong
And hope that at least one of you sing about me when I’m gone
I am worth it?”
— Kenderick Lamar

The existential question posed by Kenderick Lamar in the song “Sing About Me,” off his album good kid m.A.A.d city, aptly depicts the states of terror that shape the subjectivity of today’s youth. While critics may be prompted to dismiss his anecdotes as part of Hip Hop’s phantasmagoria, contextualized they excavate the growing nexus of violence that dominate the lives of youth. The State terror that drove Aaron Schwartz to commit suicide; the domestic violence that killed Kasandra Perkins; the communal violence that killed Trayvon Martin and fatally wounded Malala Yousufzai; have all become commonplace.

Education is not the sole key to addressing this public crisis, yet educators must help reclaim the public by affirming with youth that life is worth living. Pedagogy must wrestle with the fact that the worth of youth often vacillates between being targeted as consumers and being seen as a disposable population fit for the prison industrial complex. Critical pedagogy, as postulated by world-renowned educator Paulo Freire, helped us understand the need for renewed societal values by showing how racism, sexism, and economical exploitation shaped the experience of youth through the lens of popular media in the 80’s. Feminists building on critical pedagogy illuminated the complex ways that power and violence function in the nuclear family and heterosexual relationships. Yet the buck stops there. Critical pedagogy has become confined in academic camps because we lack the language and values necessary to address the states of terror that have escalated into youth-on-youth violence.

As we move into a more technologically-integrated society, the pressing question is how to elevate youth concomitantly through social networking platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Youtube. The first task in answering this question is to challenge the notion that the youth are aloof and normalized to the violence in their midst. If we look closely at these social media hangouts, cultivated by the idea of crowdsourcing. we find that youth are driven by two goals: the need to share information, and the need to be content creators. Our next task, then, is to engage them in transforming their ingenuity and passion to share and create content into a social praxis that revisions the modern world. Blueprints have been offered. The revolutionary maneuvers of youth in North Africa have been realized through Twitter as a cabal for strategy. The Occupy movement illustrated how we can create webs of inclusion in a leaderless movement, and introduced the public speaking platform known as mic check. These ideas engender a generational attitude capsulated in crowdsourcing as a way of being.

Crowdsourcing, however, isn’t the Marxist dream of a classless society. The
carnage youth face in the streets makes us culpable for failing to create effective institutions that integrate youth into society. If the future belongs to the youth, we must engage them by transforming the ideas of identity management on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram into community management by asking them to help share and create ideals we can live by.

 

Dalitso Ruwe is a research assistant for the upcoming publication Kanye West: Philosophy and the Tragic Image.