Exploring digital storytelling : towards HIV and AIDS knowledge production in an affluent girl's school.
St John-Ward, Maureen Inge.
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This research project is a qualitative study that explores the use of the participatory visual arts-based method of digital storytelling in the context of addressing HIV and AIDS in a secondary school classroom in an independent school in South Africa. The study is located within the research area of how HIV and AIDS are understood in an affluent school in South Africa in the context of youth-as-knowledge-producers. It is concerned with Elite Studies since affluent schools are an understudied research site in South Africa. In this media-making project I build on the key concept of convergence within a participatory cultures framework, and multimodality as conceptualised by the New London Group (Kress, 2003; 2010). My participants, 70 Grade 10 girls from an independent girl’s school in KwaZulu- Natal, produced a digital story about their understanding of HIV and AIDS. Of the 70 stories, 15 form the core study group and are analysed in depth. Analysis of the content of the digital stories takes into account the responses of the producers, the texts themselves, and the responses of the audiences who viewed them. This analytical approach draws on the conceptual work of Fiske (1987), Stuart (2006) and Fairclough (1995) in recognising the interrelatedness of the story texts, and discourse and sociocultural practices, and invites an analysis of the multimodal nature of the girls’ digital stories. The project provides insight into how adolescent girls in an affluent school understand HIV and AIDS, and offers a deeper understanding of this work in the context of Elite Studies as a sociological phenomenon. This work contributes to expanding the idea of youth-as-knowledge-producers in the context of sexuality and HIV and AIDS in South African schools. The outcomes of the project contribute to addressing the application of a multimodal analysis to work with digital stories to help fill the research gap identified by Jewitt (2014b) and others. I conclude that it is critical that more work be carried out in South African independent schools, particularly given the misinformation that is currently circulating about HIV and AIDS, but also in recognition of the keen interest of the participants in this study to learn more.