Divided Youth in the Digital Age

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					Divided Youth in the Digital Age:
Two Paradigms of Citizen Identity
                  Lance Bennett
 Center for Communication and Civic Engagement
     University of Washington, Seattle, USA
Young People, New Technologies and Political Engagement
                Surrey July 24-25 2007
Major (globalization-related) changes in
            Social Identity
   Risk society (Beck) = increased personal
    responsibility ~ choice ~ life management
   Changing social structure: groups => networks
       Personal lifestyles organize social identity
   Changing politics:
       Government (seems) less relevant to individual needs
       Rise of personal -- expressive/self-actualizing --
        politics -- (direct action -- consumer/ lifestyle issues)
       Persistence of older expectations about citizen duty
        Result: generation gap in citizenship styles
Generational Citizen Identity Differences
Youth: Actualizing Citizen (AC)          Older: Dutiful Citizen (DC)
Weak duty to participate in              Strong duty to participate in
government                               government

Focus on lifestyle politics: political   Voting is the core democratic act
consumerism, volunteering, social

Mistrust of media and politicians -- Informed about issues and
do not follow politics in the news   government -- follow the news
Join loose networks for social           Join social organizations and
action – communicate through             parties -- communicate through
digital media                            mass media
Research and Education Policy:
   Conflicting Conclusions

   Are young citizens disengaged? -- yes, if focus is
    voting & knowledge about politics & government
          (emphasis on DC citizen identity)
   Or are they Engaged ? -- yes, if focus is
    community work, consumer politics -- online
          (emphasis on AC citizen identity)
   Result -- conflicting & poorly developed
    approaches to civic education and engagement
 Research Findings: Generational
Declines in Traditional Participation
            Electoral Activity Low

Source: PEW U.S. Civic Health Survey   DotNets born 1977-1987
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Source: Young People & News - Carnegie Report - July 2007
Research Findings: Rise in
  Direct Personal Action
Personal Direct Action High
          Schools and Political
         What are the challenges?
   What schools do best
       teaching textbook knowledge about
        government -- most effective for DCs
   Engaging AC identity and digital
    lifestyles present challenges for
Persistent Belief that Schools
 are Central Institutions for
     Civic Engagement
    That’s Where the Kids Are!!!
Yet Most Schools May Produce
Dutiful Citizens (or none at all!)
   Textbook Knowledge about government
   Limited classroom democracy
   Schools are politically contested
       limited contact with community politics (although
        service learning is increasing)
       active suppression of politics inside the classroom
   Digital media environments limited
       Technology access
       Web access is often censored --limited to approved
Most civic education designed by older
  DC citizens - offering little for ACs
 The Policy Challenge: Bridging
      the AC/DC Divide
Civic Education Programs that
   Appeal to AC citizens -- through
    active/personal contact with real
    problems and issues…..
   Help find personal paths to AC&DC
    participation while:
       avoiding  textbook-only approaches
       avoiding defining citizenship mainly as duty

       offering personal paths to government

       using familiar social networking media
    Combining AC/DC: Civics in Australia
•Knowledge of Australian political institutions and structures

•Values concerning democracy, the rule of law, social justice,
equity and fairness

•Commitment to including all Australians in the political process

•An obligation to see citizenship in an international perspective

•Understanding the everyday lived experiences of young people
and their apparent alienation

•Recognising schools and classrooms as democratic institutions

•Accepting that citizens are constructed by multiple identifies
rather than a single identity.
                         -- Australian Council for Education Research
          How to Motivate Gen Next?
   I. Recognize citizen identity shifts
      less collective responsibility/civic duty

      strong interest in making a difference in society

   II. Use new learning & comm. preferences
       make learning: interactive, experiential, group
       use digital media to personalize information
       use online tools to link political info & action
   III. Link classroom to government & society
       Use media to engage students in public spheres
Source: Craig Peden, Microsoft Educational Solutions Group
~ Use Interactive Technologies to
   Bring Democracy into the
   Use interactive technologies to help
    young citizens:
     Learn public communication skills
     Communicate with each other

     Build a political agenda

     Organize and act effectively

     Communicate with government
     Easier said than done:
Dilemmas Facing Youth Political
     --in or out of schools:
   May not be perceived as authentic -- too
    managed -- too little autonomy (Coleman)
       Schools / other sponsors of youth digital networks
        take responsibility for their sites --
       -- end up censoring managing content/access
   Creating an audience problem (Levine): They
    may attract few young people
       The “long tail” may work for commerce online, but
        does it work for democracy?
Dilemma: This Cheese Gets More Attention (1.5
million visitors) than most Civic Engagement sites

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Most Popular Online Engagement
     Community: 130,000

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        Create Communication
       Environments that bridge
         schools & real world
   Teach digital media literacy in schools - to
    develop PUBLIC VOICE
   Introduce tools/public voice skills into places
    where young people gather online (MySpace)
   Build community digital media systems -- public
    spaces -- outside of schools
   Build curriculum to help students discover those
    community sites
   Link both schools and personal life to those
    spaces via networking IT
   Make it fun -- produce & share content
Center for Communication & Civic
      Lance Bennett, Director

  Information ~ Technology ~ Community


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