Introduction

NOTE: THE MATERIAL CONTAINED ON THIS SITE IS ALL A WORK IN PROGRESS AND SUBJECT TO CHANGE. FOR OUR CURRENT DISCUSSIONS, PLEASE SEE OUR GROUP BLOG.

This project explores continuities between online participatory culture and civic engagement. With low entry barriers, participatory culture-based communities often encourage online participation and expression even as they promote expression, awareness, mentorship, and skill training. Research shows that participatory communities set around new media technologies sometimes also transcend geographic, racial, and age boundaries. Premised on a dynamic understanding of citizenship, we analyze how participatory culture interactions encourage young people to create, discuss and organize to engage with specific civic issues and events. We then ask how these interactions lead to new forms of social organizing and action as we map the trajectory from popular media fandom to political engagement. Over the past months, we identified and mapped eleven initial pilot case studies on trajectories moving between circumstantial engagement and prolonged engagement, between participation and activism, between informal and formal organization.

We presented our interim findings at the Digital Media and Learning: "Diversifying Participation" conference in February 2010.  At this time we continue to analyze findings through weekly research group meetings as we dig deeper into selected topics with invited guest speakers. In the upcoming months, we plan to carry out more in-depth ethnographic research to better understand the personal trajectories of those who participate in such communities. We also plan to build an online portal that will share our work in a way that invites commentary and exchange. Our aim is to create an ultimately sustainable hub, where the communities and researchers can network and share ideas.
Looking forward we see ourselves building a bridge between theory and practice as we: inform scholarship which addresses larger debates about cultural citizenship and public participation, develop tools and best practices which may enhance outreach to young citizens, and create accessible resources for communities and institutions.

Watch and listen to Henry Jenkins speaking about participatory culture and civic engagement at TEDx in New York City:

Henry Jenkins at TEDx




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