Participatory politics and youth civic engagement

Award-winning writer, Research Director and Senior Producer at Youth RadioElisabeth Soep’s new book, Participatory Politics: Next-Generation Tactics to Remake Public Spheres explores youth civic engagement across digital and face-to-face contexts.

Soep examines new ways youth are engaging in civic life, both online and offline. She offers insights on next-generation tactics for civic participation, particularly useful to practitioners and researchers involved with digital citizen engagement practices. Within her research, she dissects a variety of cases where youth merge cultural and political articulations to engage with civic issues in innovative ways, and illustrates that youth are increasingly involved with the production of media and culture that engages with civic questions.

Exploring participatory activities across the sharing of information, dialogic conversations, content creation, public interest investigation, and grassroots mobilization, she draws from existing literature and her findings to identify five tactics to nurture youth civic engagement. These tactics are broadly built around mobilization, storytelling, leveraging public data, leveraging digital capabilities, and managing visibility.  Soep then examines the literacy that these new participatory forms demand, and the consequent risks, in particular, risks around the questions of simplification, sensationalization, slippage, unsustainability, and saviorism.

Participatory Politics  points to a repeatedly articulated mistrust in institutions and processes of policymaking. It explores three broad areas: the nature of youth participatory tactics; possibilities for improving the quality and impact of these methods; and, ways for participatory opportunities to be more inclusive.

Soep illustrates the ways in which interrelated tactics, risks, and literacies shape youth participation in the digital age. Her research observes that changes to communication structures and hierarchies have opened up new possibilities for the finding, sharing and analysis of information – and consequently, new conditions and opportunities for dialogue and participation.

Photo: Backbone Campaign/

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