Democratic Futures: Mobilizing Voices and Remixing Youth Participation
March 14-16, 2013
Craig Watkins (University of Texas, at Austin)
Sasha Costanza-Chock (Massachusetts Institute of Technology)
Susan Crawford (Cardozo Law School)
Nigel Jacob (City of Boston)
Ellen Middaugh (Mills College)
Nicole Mirra (Amino Watts College Preparatory Academy)
Nishant Shah (Centre for Internet and Society)
There has been a longstanding narrative of youth political apathy and disengagement from democratic life. However, this perception is now giving way to a richer account, one that seeks to illuminate the dynamic ways in which young people are redefining expressions of “citizenship,” “political engagement,” and “democracy.” As the currents of social, political, financial, and global change intensify, what is the future of participatory democracy, youth activism, and civic and political education? How are the practices and forms of participatory democracy evolving in the age of social, digital, and mobile media? And what do these transformational practices reveal about democratic futures?
There is public concern that social media will diminish young people’s concern about and participation in the world beyond their immediate friends and family, and that consequently they will become disconnected and disengaged from civic and communal life. The abundance of media options today means that youth are able to sequester themselves in social communication and niche interests, cutting themselves off from current events, politics or local civic life. Economic uncertainty and inequity can also contribute to disengagement from civic political participation for many young people. However, signs of a different reality are also all around us. For a rising number of young people, technology is a source of civic engagement rather than abandonment. Around the world and across different platforms, youth-driven movements are adopting technologies to re-imagine the civic sphere, empower a new generation of political voices, and challenge once accepted regimes of cultural and political authority.
DML 2013 will probe issues sparked by these and related concerns:
• To what extent do digital media and participatory culture enable or hinder civic identity and engagement?
• What are the benefits to young people—social, psychological, educational, political—of participation in civic life? How does youth activism benefit society more broadly? Does the use of digital and networked media alter the nature of these benefits?
• What is the relationship between media technologies and the political uprisings currently emerging around the world?
• How are new political actors innovating in ways that remake what it means to be an active and connected citizen in the world today?
• What types of policy interventions best support the development of resources—educational, local, and organizational—that engender greater youth involvement in the issues that impact their communities and the world?
• How are local and global initiatives challenging the civic opportunity gap and building civic participation along the social and economic margins? What forms of social innovation help make participation in civic life more open, diverse, and democratic?
The goal of our gathering is to consider the ways in which youth are re-envisioning democratic futures, and to recognize how institutions supporting and empowering them can remake democracy and redefine engaged citizenship. For DML, the work of frontline researchers and organizers is crucial to this conversation. We invite the participation of community leaders, organizations, and young people who are mobilizing for social change. Through panels, plenaries, and workshops, we will highlight how the organized efforts of engaged people are reshaping lives and communities. What lessons are we learning about how youth and the community institutions that support them are engaging in their local environments and beyond? What are the challenges these efforts face?
DML 2013 will also bring together teachers, educators, and researchers to examine the changing role of civic education in an age of unprecedented change. Schools play a critical role in the making of citizens and democratic cultures. How can schools function as sites that encourage democratic participation, and serve as laboratories for engaged citizens? What are the barriers? Digital media platforms can also be mobilized in the effort to create and invigorate new generations of involved and informed citizens. How are game-based communities and platforms, social media, and networked publics redefining young people’s participation in democracy?
Myths abound about the lack of civic engagement among poor and racially and ethnically diverse youth. However, research shows that marginalized youth can be especially inventive when it comes to civic engagement. They often fashion political identities, or express sentiments that reveal a critical disposition toward social inequality. Considering the challenges that young people and their communities face, how can educational programs foster critical thinking and create engaged citizens? How might the scope of civic and political education evolve to take into account changes in the racial and ethnic makeup of our nation’s student body?
We see this year’s conference as part of a pivotal and ongoing conversation about the types of practices that educators, designers, researchers, community activists, and youth must develop in order to build a more equitable, ethical, and sustainable future.
ABOUT THE WORKSHOP, PAPER AND PANEL PROPOSALS
We welcome workshops, panels and papers along five themes:
Envisioning 21st Century Civic Education
As new media becomes integral to civic and political life, how do we best support youth to become active, capable, and committed advocates for their communities? Are new skills needed for effective civic engagement? What learning environments and pedagogical practices best support youth development? How can teachers and mentors with varying access to technology use digital innovation to help youth connect in meaningful ways to address complex issues? How are young people taking up digital tools for youth-led civic participation, and what can we learn from their innovations?
Youth Media and Youth Movements: Organizing, Innovation, Liberation
Youth have been deeply important to every modern social movement, including civil rights, LGBTQ, feminist, environmentalist and environmental justice, labor, antiwar, and immigrant rights movements. In each case, they’ve used media as tools for liberation. Young people today organize for access to education and against the school to prison pipeline, occupy public spaces, demand an end to racial profiling, hate crimes, and stop-and-frisk policies, mobilize for immigrant rights, and more. In what ways do youth activists appropriate digital media spaces, tools, and practices in order to create, circulate, and amplify social movement voices? What types of media innovations are developed in the heat of social struggles? How can we learn from and highlight the experiences of grassroots groups and networks of youth activists? This track will prioritize presentations and workshops by youth organizers, media makers, and scholars who work at the fertile intersection of youth media and youth movements.
Whose Change Is It Anyway? Futures, Youth, Technology and Citizen Action in the Global South (And The Rest Of The World)
Whose Change Is It Anyway? seeks to explore new entry points into the discourse on youth, technology and change, with a specific focus on (but not restricted to) the Global South and the last decade of citizen action. This conference track seeks to fashion frameworks and structures that provide new ways of interpreting and understanding outcomes that technology mediated citizen action has to offer, as well as the future of citizen led interventions: What enables, catalyzes and moves young people to reinvent themselves as citizen actors? What are the interventions and narratives of change that fail to fit into a ‘success’ rubric, but are still significant in the processes of change they initiate? How do we understand these ‘new’ events as hybrids, connecting with existing histories, contexts, media and technologies in their regions? Is there an alternative discourse that does not necessarily adopt frameworks arising from the knowledge centers of the West? Do these discourses help challenge and rework global vocabularies by offering new ways of looking at citizen action and change? The track will invite provocative hypotheses, in-depth analyses, dialogues and contestations around these ideas, through innovative interactive presentation formats. The dialogue will be informed by experimental and new methods of information and knowledge production, focusing on the Global South and its larger transnational contexts at the junctures of youth, technology and change.
Tech for Governance: Community-Driven Innovation
The last several years have seen a wave of innovative technological experiments in governance and governing. These experiments in Open Government have the potential to profoundly change both the interface between publics and the public sector, and the ways government delivers service to various publics. How can successful experiments be sustained and scaled? Can these civic experiments be used to build trust between the public and government, particularly youth and communities historically alienated from politics and government? How are young people changing or impacting these efforts and what role are they playing in re-imagining the public sphere? Do (or should) these experiments interact with the digital tools of community activism that have been so instrumental in regime change in regions like the Middle East? What role do grass-roots community innovation processes, such as hackathons, have in the evolving space of civic innovation? In the long term? How can partnerships across institutional boundaries (government, universities, schools, for/non-profit) best be leveraged to enable this innovation?
Digital Media and Learning
We also welcome submissions that address research and practice in the field of digital media and learning that do not pertain directly to this year’s conference theme. As with previous years, this track is open to submissions in all areas of digital media and learning.
This year we will be accepting proposals in three formats: panels, workshops, and short talks.
Panels bring four participants or presentations representing a range of ideas and topics together in discussion. Panels are scheduled for 90 minutes and should include a mix of individuals working in areas of research, theory, and practice. We also encourage the use of discussants.
Workshops provide an opportunity for hands-on exploration and/or problem solving. They can be organized around a core challenge that participants come together to work on, or around a tool, platform, or concept. Workshops are scheduled for 90 minutes and should be highly participatory.
Finally, we welcome short, ten-minute talks where presenters speak for ten minutes on their work, research, or a subject relevant to the conference theme and/or subthemes. The conference committee will organize panels comprised of four to five short talks centered around a common theme.