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

  • Jane Melvin

    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

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