The contents of the book Civic Life Online: Learning How Digital Media Can Engage Youth was posted online by MIT Press this week. It contains a chapter by Howard Rheingold titled “Using Participatory Media and Public Voice to Encourage Civic Engagement.” The book is part of a The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation Series on Digital Media and Learning. The series “examines the effect of digital media tools on how people learn, network, communicate, and play, and how growing up with these tools may affect a person’s sense of self, how they express themselves, and their ability to learn, exercise judgment, and think systematically.
The following is the abstract of the chapter by Howard Rheingold, which appears on an MIT Press webpage from which the full chapter can be downloaded in PDF:
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 (â€œweb logs,â€ 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 â€œpublic voice,â€ should be considered a pillarâ€”not just a componentâ€”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.