Digital Tools, Spaces and Places as Mediators of Youth Work Practice

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


In the context of English youth and community work, this research project
investigates digital tools, spaces and places as mediators of youth work practice,
and proposes a model formulated through the identification of expansive drivers to
guide both professional conduct and curriculum-based practice.
The lives of English young people today are shaped by technologies which make
interaction in a variety of digital spaces and places possible, yet there are divided
views within the youth work community of practice about the place of digital tools,
spaces and places as mediators of informal learning in a discipline traditionally
focused on association, relationships and critical dialogue. Supported by the
conceptual framework of Cultural Historical Activity Theory (CHAT), Developmental
Work Research (DWR) techniques have been used to gather data from four English
youth and community work practitioners through a workshop-based approach
framed by CHAT pre-suppositions and the first three stages of Engestrom’s
expansive learning cycle. The data analysis uses the four areas where
contradictions can manifest within CHAT activity systems to examine how the use of
digital tools, spaces and places aligns with youth work values and principles, and to
examine how they can mediate informal learning opportunities with young people.
The contribution to knowledge comprises the identification of four ‘spaces’ which are
named as safety, production, information and communication, and which form the
basis of a model to scaffold the professional use of digital tools, spaces and places
as mediators of youth work practice. Expansive drivers, defined as the forces for
learning, development and change, are identified within each of the spaces within
the model and examined using continuum-based representations portraying
professional practice and curriculum-based priorities. Metaphors of digital space and
place emerging from within the DWR process are also appraised as a means to
situate the work.
The model is underpinned firstly by the premise that a youth worker’s choice of digital
tool, space or place needs to be based on the needs and input of young people.
Secondly, that using digital tools, spaces and places as mediators of youth work
practice is most effective as an extension to existing face-to-face youth work where
relationships between young people and youth workers have already been formed.
Date of Award2017
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Brighton
SupervisorAvril Loveless (Supervisor)


  • youth work
  • digital tools
  • spaces and places
  • contradictions
  • expansive learning
  • expansive drivers
  • mediators

Cite this