Young People, Civic Participation, and the Internet

Young People, Civic Participation, and the Internet

Fadi Hirzalla (Erasmus University Rotterdam, The Netherlands) and Shakuntala Banaji (LSE, UK)
Copyright: © 2019 |Pages: 12
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-7661-7.ch025


This chapter discusses the socio-political and theoretical background of the literature on the question as to whether the internet promotes young people's internet-based civic participation, which main strands of empirical research on that issue have emerged over the years, and in what ways and for what reasons different forms of knowledge that have been produced by extant research seem to be intrinsically incompatible. The suggested directions for future research should alleviate those tensions between the divergent forms of knowledge and alter the standardized narratives in the literature about youth's online civic participation, which as a partial artifact of the differences in scholars' research focus and methods, have all too often been constructed either as an elitist exercise that normalizes offline business as usual or as a panacea for old socio-political inequalities. More nuanced narratives may lie somewhere in the middle and are yet to be fully developed by this young but lively field of literature.
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The online activities to which civic potential has been attributed differ in nature and in form. Aside from visiting informational sites, recent forms of online participation have been described as more ‘interactive’ and include activity on online petition platforms, forums, blogs, photo sharing sites such as Instagram, video sharing platforms such as YouTube, micro-blogs such as Twitter, and social network sites such as Facebook. Studies that have investigated people’s participation in such activities have been conducted, as outlined below, in the context of wider discussions about the activities that should be considered as civic in the first place. Therewith impacting on any conclusion drawn about the manner and extent of young people’s civic participation, these discussions have formed a major thrust behind the literature on online civic activity of youth. The second part of this section discusses the historical development of this literature about young people’s online civic participation.

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