Civic Life Online: Learning How Digital Media Can Engage Youth(pdf file), Pages 97-118
Using Participatory Media and Public Voice to Encourage Civic Engagement, Howard Rheingold, Stanford University, Communication Department
Teaching young people how to use digital media to convey their public voices could connect youthful interest in identity exploration and social interaction with direct experiences of civic engagement. Learning to use blogs (“web logs,” web pages that are regularly updated with links and opinion), wikis (web pages that non-programmers can edit easily), podcasts (digital radio productions distributed through the Internet), and digital video as media of self-expression, with an emphasis on “public voice,” should be considered a pillar—not just a component—of twenty-first-century civic curriculum. Participatory media that enable young people to create as well as consume media are popular among high school and college students. Introducing the use of these media in the context of the public sphere is an appropriate intervention for educators because the rhetoric of democratic participation is not necessarily learnable by self-guided point-and-click experimentation. The participatory characteristics of online digital media are described, examples briefly cited, the connection between individual expression and public opinion discussed, and specific exercises for developing a public voice through blogs, wikis, and podcasts are suggested. A companion wiki provides an open-ended collection of resources for educators: www.socialtext.net/medialiteracy.