Divided Youth in the Digital Age: Two Paradigms of Citizen Identity ~ Lance Bennett Center for Communication and Civic Engagement University of Washington, Seattle, USA www.engagedcitizen.org ~ Young People, New Technologies and Political Engagement Surrey July 24-25 2007 (cc: please request permission for use)
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
GenerationalCitizen IdentityDifferences Youth: Actualizing Citizen (AC) Older: Dutiful Citizen (DC)
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 communities • (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 DotNets born 1977-1987 Source: PEW U.S. Civic Health Survey
Schools and Political Engagement:What are the challenges? • What schools do best • teaching textbook knowledge about government -- most effectivefor DCs • Engaging AC identity and digital lifestyles present challenges for schools….
Persistent Belief that Schools are Central Institutions for Civic Engagement because… 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 sites
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
Implications: 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
~ Use Interactive Technologies to Bring Democracy into the Classroom~ • 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 Communities --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
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 Engagement Lance Bennett, Director www.engagedcitizen.org Information ~ Technology ~ Community @