© 2018 by the MacArthur Research Network on Youth and Participatory Politics

Students explore their identities and communities, identify civic issues that matter to them, and consider how they might use digital media for civic participation.

Students work to understand and analyze civic information online, and consider what information they

can trust.

Students navigate diverse perspectives and exchange ideas about civic issues in our inter-connected world .

Students consider how, when and to what end they can create, remix and otherwise re-purpose content that they share with others in online spaces.

Students consider a broad range of tactics and strategies for acting on civic issues. 

ACTION

RESPOND TO ISSUES YOU CARE ABOUT,
EXTEND YOUR DEFINITION OF CIVIC ACTION
IN THE DIGITAL AGE

This module invites students to carefully consider a broad range of possible tactics and strategies they can take in responding to issues they care about. Students are also invited to extend their definition of what it means to take civic action in the digital age. Students can consider the following questions:

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  • What can we learn from social change efforts from the past?

  • What does it mean to take action around social issues in the digital age?

  • Is online activism “slacktivism” or just another way to take action? What are the risks?

  • How do we determine a course of action using social media?

 

Online action is often seen as the lowest form of political participation or, as many call it, “slacktivism.” However, research shows that online action (also referred to as “flash activism”) can be impactful. It can result in a rush of involvement that raises awareness about issues, increases public dialogue, motivates people who would otherwise not get involved, and, in some cases, creates the pressure needed to influence key targets like politicians or corporations (Earl, 2016).

 

Yet, online action is one form of participation on a spectrum of many options. When developing a plan of action, youth must learn to strategically assess the most effective and relevant tactics and strategies, including if and how digital media and online platforms may be useful. In other words, youth should assess how to achieve their civic goals “by any media necessary” (Jenkins et al., 2016). Theater, radio, hanging posters in public places, memes, Facebook posts, Tweets, brochures, petitions are all included in what Jenkins considers to be the ‘by any media’ necessary repertoire of action.

 

The earlier modules in this collection helped students identify an issue they care about, investigate issues using online sources, engage in dialogue, and find their voice/story. This module supports them as they move towards taking action.

conversation starter:

how has the internet

changed the conversation?

This conversation starter invites students to respond to a meme depicting 'slacktivism (30 min)  >

QUESTION 1:

What can we learn from social change efforts from the past?

In this activity, students will consider what it meant to take action in the past by reflecting on social change efforts in the Civil Rights Movement in the 1950s-1960s. They will explore the choices that activists made, the pushback or resistance from non-supporters, and the extent to which that has relevance for taking action today.

QUESTION 2:

What does it mean to take action

in the digital age?

From Facebook likes to in-person gatherings, from YouTube videos to signed petitions, young people today encounter a dizzying spectrum of possible actions. Making sense of all these possibilities can be confusing. Do all actions count? Do some matter more than others? In this section, we ask what it means to take action in the digital age.

QUESTION 3:

Is online activism “slacktivism” or just a different way to take action?  How can it be risky?

Taking action in one’s community and world has always posed challenges and risks. Some believe that taking action via social media is easier, lighter, and lower stakes, while others argue that such actions are both consequential and potentially risky. The activity below engages different perspectives on these issues.

QUESTION 4:

How do we determine a course of

action using social media?

In the activities below, students will have the chance to consider how to take action using social media. First, students will reflect on the media platforms they already use, the communities they can reach through those platforms, and how they can draw on “any media” available to them to mobilize for change. Then students will be guided through hands-on action projects where they conduct research on an issue that matters to them, develop an action plan, implement their plan, and reflect on what they learned.

CLOSING

REFLECTION

This section asks students to loop back to

the broad questions that they explored in this module

as a way of reviewing what they covered

related to action in the digital age.

teacher background

This section includes links to articles, blogs, videos, and further resources that informed the creation of this module and may be useful to educators who want to dig deeper.