Civic engagement in the digital age – a collaboration with Gada

As part of our citizen-centered approach to social media analysis we are interested in understanding and improving the role of social media, and related digital technologies, in the civic-engagement of citizens. Our work on this dimension of the CaSMa theme is done in collaboration with Gada, a non-profit start-up that is building social media for social change. Gada was founded and directed by Mattia Fosci and is hosted at the University of Nottingham’s Ingenuity Lab. The collaboration with Gada is a vital component since Mattia and his team provide insights into the practical concerns and issues of activists working to increase civic engagement. Insight that would be very difficult to gain from purely academic research.

Social media, and the internet in general, are widely considered a promising tool for democratic participation. Yet despite relative frequent occurrence of political communication on social media this only rarely seem to translate into meaningful and effective civic engagement. Bottom-up civic engagement appears to be hampered by new variants of the collective action problem, while top-down civic engagement (i.e. initiated and mediated by government bodies and civil society organisations) is out-of-sync with the distributed and horizontal nature of social media.

Together with Gada we are especially interested in considering these issues with respects to young people, a demographic that has both very high use of social media and low levels of civic engagement.

Within this project we will run workshops with young people, NGOs and government representatives to discuss perceptions, concerns, barriers for engagement, as well as personal and professional reflections on the role of digital tools in civic engagement.

The results of the workshops, and associated online surveys, will be presented at academics conferences and used as foundation for grant applications.

With generous support from a small grant by the University of Nottingham’s Research Priority Area for Governance and Public Policy we organized our first workshop on June 14th with the title The Voiceless Generation (#voicelessgeneration)


Conferences we have contributed to so far are:

Citizen-centric approaches to Social Media analysis