2. Module Introduction

This module explores how media, and especially mobile media technologies, are empowering individuals and groups around the world.

The  module addresses six questions key to thinking about civic participation in our digital age.

First, the module addresses what civic participation actually is, and considers such questions as who is a citizen, how do people participate, and how does their kind and level of participation change depending on the triggering event or issue?  Do natural crises, such as earthquakes or hurricanes, for example, prompt a different kind of engagement from different kinds of people, than, say, a political crisis?

Second, this module investigates both what technology is employed to enhance citizen journalism, as well as the extent to which technology shapes participatory journalism. 
The module focuses on modern digital media applications and platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and mobile phones – especially Smartphone devices – as tools that can empower citizens.  The modules raises questions about whether the extent of civic participation or the quality of engagement differs depending on what kind of media is used – whether people are using mobile phones or community radio, for instance?  Does the expanding presence of Facebook and Twitter mean that connections can come to matter, not just among friends, but across continents?

Furthermore, this module considers who are the people who use media for civic participation and what are their motivations for becoming engaged in their communities and the larger world. 
Are there patterns of gender, age, culture, nation, economic class and political affiliation?  Social media allows everyone to have a voice; what do individuals and marginalized groups stand to gain when they are involved in participatory communication?


This module also looks at several kinds of civic participation:  participation as inspired by individuals and participation that is
instigated by institutions – by governments, corporations and NGOs.  Social media has an unmatched ability to create communities, not just for social justice or communities of interest, but communities created for profit or for entertainment.

This module further assesses whether participation in the "virtual" world (via blogging, online petitions, viral messaging, texting micropayment charity) leads to greater citizen participation in the actual world. 
Does posting on Facebook or using SMS and Twitter to pass on news, make citizens more "social" but not really more "socially responsible" or engaged?  Does civic participation for social justice stand a chance against the lures of such participatory come-ons as online dating services, online seminars and online diplomas?

This module concludes with the obstacles that people around the world face when they try to engage with others in their communities. How can social media capture people’s attention for important causes/events when there are so many competing voices?  And finally this module sheds light on certain countries, such as Iran and Burma (Myanmar), that impose high levels of censorship and control on their public and media.  How can digital media empower those who are powerless?

 

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