One of my favorite young media scholars is Hillary Kolos, a graduate student in MIT’s Comparative Media Studies Program. Because I have had the great, great luck to get to work with her over the last year as part of my day job, I’ve had the joy of watching her blossom as a thinker, writer, and media scholar.
Recently, Hillary had a personal essay posted to Henry Jenkins’s blog. The piece, “Bouncing Off the Walls: Playing with Teen Identity”, focuses on her experience with gender and identity play through a consideration of how she decorated the walls of her bedroom as an adolescent. The piece is a gem. One tantalizing snippet:
As a teen, I used many resources to play with new identities. Fashion ads served as inspiration. My walls were a place to exhibit them. I did also, on occasion, leave my room where I had other experiences that helped shape the woman I am today. But having a space of my own to play and then reflect was very important to my process of identity formation. What seemed like goofing off at the time was actually a process of exploring who I thought I was at the time, as well as who I thought I should be.
My experience in my room is one of countless examples of how teens use their available resources to explore potential identities through play. This kind of play can happen in private, but often young people use media to capture their experiments and share them with others. In this way, they can gauge reactions and refine their performances. I used my walls to reach a limited audience, but today teens can easily reach millions of people online and receive feedback instantly on how they represent themselves. It will be interesting to see the new possibilities, as well as the new concerns, that emerge as teens use new resources to play with their identities online.
You can find the rest on Henry’s blog here. As I mention in the title of this post, the piece is filled with awesome and well worth the read.