Sunday, April 8, 2012

Response to Danah Boyd and W. Lance Bennett Articles

“Can Social network sites enable political action” by Danah Boyd and “Digital Natives as self-actualizing citizens” by W. Lance Bennett, are two interesting articles that discuss the idea of whether social network sites could be used for political action and speaking truth to power.

Boyd’s article suggests that using SNSes for political action are nothing but mere “daydreams,” particularly when it comes to young people, who are more concerned about engaging with their friends and updating their statuses than they are with participating in a political cause. Boyd also suggested that it is “this lack of motivation that we need to understand and address to improve our democracy and government.” While Boyd sees this as an issue, Bennett sees it as “changing patterns of engagement and opportunities that will reshape the notion of citizenship in this new century. According to Bennett, the reason young people aren’t using SNSes as platforms for political action is because of the contrast between old century “Dutiful Citizens” (DC) and the new century “self-Actualizing Citizens” (AC). DCs (adults) “are unaware or unappreciative of the civic identity shift that has occurred among many young people.”  Bennett suggests that when adult-run institutions do attempt to build media projects, it seems that they “impose limits on what young people can and ‘should’ do,” thus these projects often fail.

Both articles suggest that we need to understand young people’s lack of motivation behind using SNSes for political action. Both discuss that the solution lies in finding a way of reaching all young people, or what Boyd calls the “unmotivated groups;” not just those who are already politically involved. According to Bennett, the DCs need to adopt and correctly utilize online environments as a way of reaching young people and successfully motivating them to get involved in all aspects of our democracy. Boyd makes a strong point that “the infrastructure is available for people to spread information, but the motivation is not there to either share or receive it. That’s the problem we need to solve, and we’ll know we’re successful from the messages that will be written on Facebook and MySpace.” 

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