Plugged In: Youth Computer-Mediated Civic Action and Interaction Through the Prism of Modern Protest Movements

Plugged In: Youth Computer-Mediated Civic Action and Interaction Through the Prism of Modern Protest Movements

Dino Sossi (Columbia University, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-6684-7472-3.ch002
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In the aftermath of the Arab Spring, Occupy Wall Street, and Black Lives Matter movements, protest has become the default response to social problems. As students and youth become more involved in political upheaval, they turn to the technology that surrounds them. This chapter focuses on computer-mediated youth civic action and interaction. It examines past trends in youth activism and how social media skills acquired through activism could help these same youth activists transition to the workforce.
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The 1960s was a defining time for youth protest in the United States. Following the peaceful prosperity following the Second World War as the country recovered from its prolonged participation in warfare, the 1960s became filled with wrenching civil unrest. This is in sharp contrast to the more genteel atmosphere characterizing the nation following the previous world war. The Vietnam War’s protracted length, the corresponding increasing number of casualties over its duration, and its reliance on the draft drew deep demarcations among the American populace based on race, class, gender, and socioeconomics. As an example, this includes those who chose to enlist as well as draftees were disproportionally poor and people of color who were less able to employ various strategies to avoid service (e.g., successfully apply for deferment). This combination of difficult issues became a major instigator for the student protests and riots that occurred throughout the 1960s (Barton, 1968; Bradley, 2003; Hariman & Lucaites, 2001; Lewis & Hensley, 1998; Moore, 1999), their reverberations still echoing during the present moment as seen in the Charlottesville protests (DeVega, 2017; Owen, 2017; Sinclair, 2017).

One of the most popular and pervasive categories of technology of that time, telecommunications, was one of the key modes of organizing protests during this tumultuous period (Gladwell, 2010). With just a name, a phone number, and loose pocket change, youth activists could communicate to organize and engage in civic action courtesy of widely available pay phones (Gladwell, 2010). In short, the revolution will be dialed.

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