Online Participation: New Forms of Civic and Political Engagement or Just New Opportunities for Networked Individualism

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This paper discusses the findings of a qualitative study aimed at investigating Italian youth’s political uses of the web in relation to their civic cultures, that is shared systems of meaning, values, knowledge, spaces and practices through which young citizens construct collective identities that support or inhibit their political engagement (Dahlgren 2009). Rather than studying internet-based practices in isolation from the offline and from other media consumption practices, the use of the internet as a tool for political information and political participation is here contextualised both in young people crossmedia diets and in the context of their daily lives and their social networks. It is deemed that the development of web 2.0 and social media potentially expands the opportunities for civic engagement and may represent a remedy for youth disaffection, but studies of the role of the internet in promoting political engagement among young people are divided in their conclusions. The findings suggest that online participation needs to be contextualized in youth’s political socialization and media consumption practices, and that different civic cultures engage in different online activities and forms of participation. On the one hand web 2.0 under certain conditions seems effective in mobilizing participation, at least by those already interested. At the same time, online participation is an outcome of broader social changes, such as the emergence of new patterns of sociality – networked individualism (Castells 2001) and networked collectivism (Baym 2010) - and new citizenship practices.
Lingua originaleEnglish
Titolo della pubblicazione ospiteSocial Media and Democracy: Innovations in Participatory Politics
Numero di pagine18
Stato di pubblicazionePubblicato - 2012


  • networked individualism
  • participation
  • social network sites
  • youth


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