Social network sites, websites and text increasingly serve as a conduit for political information and a major public arena where citizens express and exchange their political ideas, raise funds and mobilize others to vote, protest and work on public issues.
In “Youth, New Media, and the Rise of Participatory Politics,” a working paper authored by me, my Mills College colleague Ellen Middaugh, and Danielle Allen, of the Institute for Advanced Study, we address how the ascendency of today’s new media may be introducing fundamental changes in political expectations and practices. This work grows out of the Youth and Participatory Politics (YPP) Research Network and reflects, in many ways, the network’s collective vision. Specifically, we see evidence that new media are facilitating participatory politics — interactive, peer-based acts through which individuals and groups seek to exert both voice and influence on issues of public concern. While these kinds of acts have always occurred, evidence suggests that new media are providing new opportunities for political voice and action, thus increasing the role of participatory politics in public life. We focus our analysis on youth, who are early adopters of new media, and provide some empirical evidence to demonstrate the importance of participatory politics to their political life as well as highlight some benefits and risks associated with this form of political engagement.