While specifics of the relationship between civic engagement and social media aren’t yet fully understood, a new report by the Youth Participatory Politics Research Network shines a fascinating light on the ways in which young people are harnessing the power of new media for the betterment of their communities.
Published late last month, “Doing Civics in the Digital Age: Casual, Purposeful, and Strategic Approaches to Participatory Politics” explores how youth use Facebook, Twitter, and other online platforms to address the issues that matter in the world.
Drawing primarily on a data set of in-depth interviews with 70 civically active youth between the ages of 15 and 25, researchers examined the uses of social media as part of five participatory practices: investigation, circulation, production, dialogue and feedback, and mobilization. They further discerned three distinct approached to new media facilitated participation: casual, purposeful, and strategic.
Their findings show that politically active youth are more likely to use social media for some practices than others, depending on their unique desired outcomes. The study’s results point to a powerful potential for reimagining the dominant civic engagement paradigm.
While youth populations are sometimes derided as uninvolved or unwilling to engage in important civic efforts, “Doing Civics in the Digital Age” provides reason to believe that younger Americans are paving the way for a fundamental shift in how we meaningfully engage with our societies.
The research undergirding the report was supported by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.
Read the full paper here.