CYBER CIVICS: These aren't your grandma's politics. Or at least that's the gist of a new MacArthur study exploring youth, new media, and participatory politics. Co-led by Cathy J. Cohen of the University of Chicago and Joseph Kahne of Mills College, the study defines participatory politics as "interactive, peer-based acts through which individuals and groups seek to exert both voice and influence on issues of public concern."
DMLCentral lauds the rigor of the effort, noting it is "one of the first large-scale, nationally representative studies." A quick fact check confirms the notion -- the 2,920 sample of 15-25 year olds includes a fairly equal number of White (30%), Hispanic (27%), Black (23%), and Asian (20%) Americans. With this data, the report challenges traditional conclusions around the technological digital divide, reporting that an "overwhelming" number of young people across racial and ethnic lines have access to an Internet connection, and a "majority or near-majority" regularly participate in online social interaction.
Another term that got our attention is "digital social capital" which the report defines as "knowledge, skills, and networks" that result from "using new media to pursue interests and hobbies." We find the term fascinating for considering how young people form relationships and networks that previous generations have only built through face-to-face interaction. The study finds that young people who build "digital social capital" are "four times more likely to participate in any political act." We'd love to see an encore on how this "capital" might affect participation in learning environments. You can download the entire 56-page report here.