The next steps of this research will focus on furthering our understanding of the links between participatory culture and civic engagement by:
1. seeking out and engaging with more case studies to further elaborate the mapping of the trajectories and nodes that define the continuum from participatory culture to civic action through
2. delving deeper into the personal trajectories as we interview, and otherwise spend time with, young people in these spaces to explore what these activities have meant to them and how they have influenced their political identities. This may be followed by a quantitative survey
3. continuing the analyze, contextualize and critically review our ongoing research by fine-tuning our theoretical foundation and nuancing our mapping of the continuum
4. supporting dialogue and exchange around participatory culture and civic engagement through the development of an online portal, and possibly through the setting up of an interdisciplinary working group to support collaboration and exchange amongst communities, scholars and other interested groups
5. linking to the work being carried out by MacArthur Research Hub
All of these these steps will allow us to further explore the ways in which learning happens in communities rooted in participatory culture.
To complete these next steps we plan to work through and develop the following:
Website/Online Hub Portal:
We plan to develop a website that will become an online hub for communities and individuals, included, and interested in our project. In this space we will present our rich case studies through the full use of the multi-media possibilities afforded by the web format effectively reflecting the new media used by these groups. As such, we will invite the readers to engage with these media formats as we invite comments from communities and allow for an exchange of experiences and best practices between communities. This website will become a crucial aspect of our participatory approach to research. Here will also share our interim thoughts and conclusions with a look towards encouraging constructive discussions. This will allow scholars, communities and other involved groups to participate in the project process (see attached google site prototypes). The integrated comment possibilities also encourage an active dialogue with the communities and other interested groups. The website will set up a flexible structure that will allow us to continue to add case studies as the project grows. The interactive format also invites transparency and participation to our project method. At this time, we have designed a website 'prototype' as a google site and have now identified clear guidelines for further website development. Looking ahead, this website will allow us to begin to build a community support hub premised on the ongoing sharing of ideas, experiences and best practice relating to civic action rooted in, and influenced by, participatory cultures.
Our preliminary research suggests that many of the young people involved in these groups did not necessarily see themselves as political until they participated in a group that facilitated their journey along a trajectory. If this is confirmed by our planned research, then the communities described in our case studies may indeed be reaching young people who may be interest-driven and active but had not thought of themselves as civically engaged before. Building on the findings of our initial case studies, we plan to design and carry out in-depth ethnographic research, which delves deeper into the experiences of young people who have become involved. Based on our previous analysis, we have identified the Harry Potter Alliance and Invisible Children as the two communities for further ethnographic research. The Harry Potter Alliance (HPA) has been organizing fans of Harry Potter to engage in political and philanthropic campaigns since it began in 2005. Invisible Children (IC) is a youth-driven media-based humanitarian organization for peace and development in Uganda, that employs strategies of transmedia, participatory culture, and "ethical spectacle" (Stephen Duncombe) to engage participants. Through research into these two groups, we seek to better understand the trajectories they followed in moving from interest in popular culture to involvement in larger social causes, and how the rhetoric and tactics of such groups might be attracting kinds of young people who are not reached by more traditional forms of citizen outreach and we want to understand how participation in such activities might change the ways they see themselves and their relationship to politics. Drilling down even deeper, we will ask what conditions enable such change. We will explore what skills are developed and how these skills project into the politics in the future, the ways in which the communities work to create the structures and conditions to facilitate this learning, what motivates people to move along these trajectories, and whether and how which involvement in such groups results in informed and thoughtful action. Our research qualitative research methods include one-on-one interviews, mini groups, participant observations of group and community activities, as well as respondent generated video journals and collaborative online commentaries.
We are committed to continuing to deepen our project through relevant work carried out across disciplines. To continue to do his we will continue to do seek out and connect with researchers and scholars working on related subjects across different disciplines.