What opportunities and challenges do emergent communication technologies provide for engaging American youth in government and politics?
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Emergent communication technologies, such as smart phones, twitter, email, and the Internet in general, which I'm not sure would any longer be considered emergent, offer American youth more engagement in government and politics than ever before. Youth can communicate freely with one another and with politicians and government officials, which is an appealing form of engagement for this generation. Opinions can be expressed to peers and politicians, ideas can be exchanged, comments made, for instance, in response to newspaper articles, and anyone can have a blog today. The Internet allows for fact-checking and provides for great transparency than ever before. All of these are ways in which American youth can participate in the process.
On the other hand, all of these technologies distance youth (and all of us, really) from the real people who make up our government, and they also have a way of reducing everything to sound bites, which can never really capture the complexity of today's governance. I had read so much about President Obama when he ran the first time, but campaigns are all about those sound bites, and it was not until I met him, shook his hand, and talked to him for a few minutes that I felt I really had any sense of him as a person. Government in action consists of far more than tweets and blogs, and its complexity cannot be thus reduced. It may be unfashionable these days, but nothing replaces going to watch the House or Senate in action or attending a political meeting at a real time and place. There are plenty of opportunities for involvement of this sort, and I don't see enough of this going on with today's youth.
Tweeting has become an effective way to get small messages out quickly. It can help people keep others up to date on what is going on with important events. Facebooking and blogging to give more in-depth information on issues that are important to people, such as the healthcare debate.
The ease of communication today means that we aren't stuck just talking to a few people that we know or the few news shows we watch for opinions and information. There's all kinds of opportunity for interaction out there. Does that mean it's a good thing? Hopefully.
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