Researchers: distorted media image of deprived areas
Deprived areas often make headlines, and are linked to anxiety, social exclusion and insecurity. Terence Fell, Senior Lecturer in Political Science, together with his colleagues at MDH, Karolinska Institutet (KI) and Stanford University, have compared positive factors in deprived areas with a negative media image. The result? People living in the deprived area have a different view of the area than the image painted by the media.
The research group has got young people engaged in documenting the deprived areas in image form with the help of an app. In this way, the researchers believe that they have gained a unique understanding of these areas from within.
“The young men that are recruited as citizen scientists are outcasts, i.e., people who have not only been deprived of their social mobility, representation and identity, but are quite often painted as feared and demonised in the media. With the help of citizen science, which is used in this study, we were able to reach groups in society that are otherwise difficult to reach out to. The method gives rise to a community engagement among these groups, a commitment that also inspires and is otherwise difficult to achieve,” says Terence Fell.
Terence Fell believes that citizen science is not just about creating "empowerment", in terms of autonomy, participation and the ability to influence one's life, but is also about highlighting otherwise invisible issues, such as the importance of the local grocery store, football pitches and community youth centres – the places for young people.
“Our research has given us insights into places that matter most to socially excluded young men. In this case, their pictures showed that the local corner market, the football pitch and the community youth centre act as an antidote to the effects of social exclusion in the districts of Fröslunda and Skiftinge in Eskilstuna. The result is applicable to other deprived areas as well.”
Due to this insight, according to Terence Fell, researchers can now begin to counteract citizens' lack of influence in local politics.
How can these insights help to develop these districts?
“These are valuable insights in that it is important that people living in socially excluded areas have access to places that can help them get a sense of belonging. It is imperative that Eskilstuna's politicians are aware that we need to create and develop social and physical contexts, such as football pitches and community youth centres, to increase security and reduce crime. Young people living in deprived areas believe that these meeting places are valuable and create a sense of security – in contrast to the image that the media depicts of Fröslunda and Skiftinge – and we need to take this into account,” says Terence Fell.
Sustainable cities and communities
MDH is conducting research in all of the UN’s global goals for sustainability. This research can be linked to Goal number 11, Sustainable Cities and Communities, and Goal number 16, Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions.