Digital and social media have arguably altered the civic landscape, creating not only opportunities for civic voice and engagement but also distinct challenges. How do youth who are civically active think about activism and their own civic activities in this landscape? How does their sense of themselves as civic actors – the strength and salience of their civic identities – shape decisions to “speak up” online? In this chapter, we draw on data from interviews with civically active youth to explore connections between their civic identities and uptake of opportunities for voice online. Drawing on data from a follow-up study conducted two years after initial interviews, we also examine reported changes in online expression over time. We find that many – though not all – youth in our study appear to have strong civic identities, as indicated by their self-identification as “activists” and the centrality of voice to their conceptions of activism. We also observe connections between activist identification and online civic expression over time. Youths’ narratives about what informs their online voice decisions further suggest the relevance of forces that have influenced persistence in civic participation (such as life transitions, work, and family demands) in addition to pressures unique to the digital context (including online conflict and surveillance). This qualitative study suggests that strong civic identities may support uptake of, and persistence with, online civic expression and tolerance of related challenges. In the discussion, we consider implications for youth civic development and for the vitality and diversity of the digital civic sphere.
Purpose – Scholars of social movements have tended to focus on the social movement organization (SMO) as the primary unit of analysis, documenting a trend toward its…
Purpose – Scholars of social movements have tended to focus on the social movement organization (SMO) as the primary unit of analysis, documenting a trend toward its professionalization. This trend, typified in the abortion rights movement, has facilitated the survival of movements, but is associated with a reduction in tactical and strategic innovation. Innovation is associated with movement entrepreneurs, like the body of lone activists that characterizes the antiabortion movement. However, work on online activism offers evidence that SMOs are not the dominant organizing structures in online mobilization, leading to general questions about innovation and the role of SMOs online.
Methodology – I analyze quantitatively content-coded data for the role of organizations and for innovative uses of the web for protest in the online abortion rights and antiabortion movements.
Findings – The two movements have different online footprints, with organizations dominating the former but not the latter, and an overall larger volume of antiabortion claims-making. Unlike in offline activism, organizationally affiliated sites are not less likely than those without an organizational affiliation to leverage innovative uses of the web for claims-making. Organizational composition may matter in other ways, though: the greater representation of antiabortion claims online, especially by individual activists, may be a lingering effect of the abortion rights movement's offline professionalization.
Research implications – These findings point to the importance of attending to variation across movements when they migrate online in investigations of new media for protest and for rethinking the role of SMOs in social movements.
Growing interest in the use of digital technologies and a Putnam-inspired debate about youth engagement has drawn researchers from outside of the study of social movements…
Growing interest in the use of digital technologies and a Putnam-inspired debate about youth engagement has drawn researchers from outside of the study of social movements into research on the topic. This interest in youth protest participation has, in turn, developed into a substantial area of research of its own. While offering important research contributions, we argue that these areas of scholarship are often not well grounded in classic social movement theory and research, instead focusing on new media and/or the relationship between activism and other forms of youth engagement. This chapter seeks to correct this by drawing on interviews with 40 high school and college students from a moderately sized southwestern city to examine whether traditional paths to youth activism (i.e., family, friends, and institutions) have changed or eroded as online technology use and extra-institutional engagement among youth has risen. We find that youth continue to be mobilized by supportive family, friends, and institutional opportunities, and that the students who were least engaged are missing these vital support networks. Thus, it is not so much that the process driving youth activism has changed, but that some youth are not receiving support that has been traditionally necessary to spur activism. This offers an important reminder for scholars studying youth and digital activism and youth participation more broadly that existing theory and research about traditional pathways to activism needs to be evaluated in contemporary research.
A recent mainstream intervention in Australia involved the creation of a climate change communication institution, the Climate Council, from crowdfunding and support in…
A recent mainstream intervention in Australia involved the creation of a climate change communication institution, the Climate Council, from crowdfunding and support in social media. Such digital action invites further examination of supporters’ motivations. The purpose of this paper is to analyse the reported intentions and interests of the Climate Council’s supporters to gain a better understanding of mainstream climate change action in digital spaces.
This paper reports on a survey that was undertaken by the Climate Council with their Founding Friends that sought to understand their motivations for supporting the institution. The survey received over 10,000 responses. From four selected questions, the paper considers all of the quantitative responses while a random sample of 100 responses was taken from the qualitative data.
The data show that most Climate Council supporters were motivated to maintain an institution that communicates the impacts of climate change while a minority desired more political engagement by the institution. The results capture an example of action with limited conscious activism.
Digital spaces fundamentally need the interconnections between people in order to function, in a similar way to physical spaces. Nonetheless, the power of online action, in all its contradictory forms, should not be overlooked in considering the range of possibilities available to those interested in effecting meaningful social change. Even mainstream interventions, as presented in this paper, that seem to disavow climate change activism on the whole, can nevertheless produce institutional changes that defy national governance shifts.
This chapter considers some of the divergent outcomes of youth mobilization and participation in offline spaces, particularly in the youth nonprofit. Critics of youth…
This chapter considers some of the divergent outcomes of youth mobilization and participation in offline spaces, particularly in the youth nonprofit. Critics of youth online political participation detail several shortcomings of online activism as compared to offline activism, but in so doing, these critics venerate offline activism as a utopic alternative. Based on qualitative research in three organizations that mobilize youth around issues of education reform, this chapter demonstrates that the offline youth activist nonprofit fosters political power among some youth while burning out other youth. For teenage activists, these nonprofit organizations offer political education, institutional leverage, and foster political efficacy. At the same time, older youth organizers who are paid staff in these same organizations struggle with having to reign in the radicalism of the youth they mentor, while performing invisible labor around the demands of their organizational funders. These organizational pressures work to burn out youth organizers and steer them away from politics. Online forms of youth activism bring about outcomes that both enhance the political capacities of youth as well as hinder their potential to transform social injustices. Far from utopic, offline movement contexts also foster these contradictory outcomes and should be considered more critically in the debates over the merits of offline versus online activism.