2017-2018 Digital Humanities Undergraduate Fellow Key Estime is producing a hybrid project that articulates a digital video ethnography with a hypermedia web experience. Called “RYSE-UP,” this work explores the needs of youth in the RYSE Program; which stands for Railroad Street Youth Student Empowerment Program.
Why Bare Hands? Why RYSE-UP?
By Key Estime
In the 21st century, the youth of the United States struggle to prepare for their futures amidst global warming, rising technology, and the lack of community engagement and belonging. In public education, the cultivation of imagination in school is being actively eradicated; such as the lack of art and play in pre-schools, which are methods of learning that are statistically proven to enhance positive psychology and social collaboration. This being the case, the tools meant to enhance play and imagination- like languages, math, and sciences- are prioritized as the initial sources of learning; accessing only a few young minds as opposed to incorporating the diverse intelligence within a classroom. Such a system allows hundreds of thousands of youth, with amazing imaginative and cognitive capabilities, to fall through the cracks of society. This is the work of corporations privatizing education, exploiting teachers, and manipulating our most fragile population; youth.
The Goal of Bare Hands:
This experimental film, dubbed Bare Hands, is a commentary on this national crisis, where the youth are
surrounded by screens and technology without such influence being balanced with creativity and play to
process these numerous images and abilities. One method of play is controlled by corporations (screens and
technology), while creativity and play results in organic imagination and original creation. The narrative of this
film follows a stuffed bear who acts as a portal into different social spheres- whether black, brown or white.
Whether tapping the buttons of an XBox remote controller, or stitching up a rip in a stuffed animal, youth use
their hands to create, alter, and redefine reality. The hands of a human being are powerful destructive and
creative tools to determine the material reality of the world around us. Yet hands are often taken for granted,
hanging listlessly at our sides or holding onto another tool, like a phone. My question is, why? Why is the
process and time it takes for humans to explore their own imagination through play and experimentation being
The Goal of RYSE-UP:
The purpose of this study is to conduct a participatory ethnography with four youth empowerment
non-profit organizations in the Pioneer Valley, that pool their resources to empower underserved
populations of youth; from refugee and immigrant families to predominantly Puerto Rican communities
or rural working-class youth. I am interested in the ways that these non-profits conceptualize
“empowerment” and their methodology of empowerment, use of art and mentorship, expected outcomes
and indicators, and in what ways these methods of empowerment affect the youth. I started developing
this research due to my passion for mentorship and positive youth development, thus developing
knowledge and experience surrounding powerful and effective methodologies in empowering young
people. This research will expand the remaining two years of my education at MHC, and the final product will
become a thesis.
Digital Humanities Tools and Methods:
I used the Microsoft SWAY platform to create an interactive webpage that explores the meaning and intentions of the film, Bare Hands, and how it relates to the visual ethnography I am creating for my Senior thesis in the Spring of 2020. My primary research method will be participatory observation and semi-structured interviews of the youth and youth-workers of each organization. I will also utilize youth participatory evaluations to understand their perspective on the methodology and effectiveness of the organization’s empowerment programs; utilizing fun activities such as digital storytelling to explore the narratives of youth on what “empowerment” means and looks like to them. I am already organizing a program with each organization to use the available cameras to walk around the local community and find cool sites to practice cinematography and production. As well as asking, “What is the purpose of a camera? Why does it exist? How is it being used today, by you?” etc. I will be active in roles in each organization, whether as a mentor or volunteer, and able to either step back and observe, or fully participate in activities.
I hope to produce material that can create positive change within my community and the nation. It is important
for youth to see other young people advocate for their future, reach their goals, and utilize community
resources for support. I want to be a role model and a source of inspiration for the youth of this country. As a
low income, first generation student of color, I am determined to uplift all youth groups and bridge the divides of
race, gender, and class. Otherwise, what future are we all working toward every hour of every day? What is
our purpose as a nation? The youth of this country face a future that is uncertain, and their questions, dreams,
and unrest must be addressed now.