47th Symposium on International Relations
Social Media: Global Impact on Political Engagement, Youth & Privacy
Sponsored by the League of Women Voters of Connecticut Education Fund, Inc.
Co-sponsored in cooperation with PIER and the Councils of African and Middle East Studies at The Whitney and Betty MacMillan Center for International and Area Studies at Yale and the Yale Peabody Museum of Natural History.
Pat Sabosik, President, Elm City Consulting—advises companies on new digital strategies
Carolyn A. Lin,Professor, University of Connecticut Dept. of Communication (Impact on Political Engagement)
Erhardt Graeff, Fellow, Berkman Center for Internet and Society, Harvard (Impact on Youth)
Lauren Henry Scholz, Postdoctoral Associate in Law, Information Society Project, Yale Law School (Impact on Privacy)
Nancy Ruther, Visiting Fellow, the Whitney and Betty MacMillan Center for International and Area Studies
Goals: To share approaches for understanding impact in civic media – from randomized controlled trials to qualitative evaluation to artistic research methods. The workshop will explore the variety of ways in which people are responding to the increased need to demonstrate the impact of media interventions, including how we evaluate the impact of research, practice, and classroom-community partnerships.
Designing and Evaluating Technologies for Civic Learning
This general exam proposal is designed to prepare me for my larger PhD goal: to design future civic technologies optimized for the development of effective citizens using definitions and measurements of civic and political learning in a way that captures the complexity and needs of contemporary, digitally-mediated democracy.
Last January, I attended a Civics Research Workshop at Google in New York. The leaders of the field of civic technology in attendance, from industry representatives, practitioners, scholars, and funders, all agreed we severely lack ways of measuring impact or even defining it. And yet, there is a rush into this field attracting vast amounts of funding and media attention. With lots of technology being built, claiming to extend citizen voice and efficacy, this is the moment to be working on measures for evaluating and improving civic technology design.
First, there is a need to define this space more clearly by analyzing the design of civic technologies, in terms of their embodiment of certain goals, values, and definitions of democracy and civic participation; how they conceive of good or effective citizenship and of the development of users into those kinds of citizens; and the ways these platforms and their designers measure success. Second, focusing on the potential of technologies to empower citizens to grow into more effective civic actors, it’s important to understand the way Western civilizations have looked at the development of citizens in offline and now digitally-mediated contexts, and how we might assess new forms of civic learning. Thus, my general exam areas cover:
- Primary Area: Designing Technologies for Civic Engagement, surveying the range of platforms, technologies, and uses of those tools to promote civic activities.
- Contextual Area: History and Philosophy of Civic Education, surveying the most prominent political and educational philosophers and trends in civic education since the birth of modern democracy.
- Technical Area: Statistical and Psychometric Validation of Measures of Civic and Political Learning, covering recent approaches to valid assessments of learning in digital contexts.
- Ethan Zuckerman, PhD Advisor at MIT Media Lab
- Peter Levine, Associate Dean for Research and Lincoln Filene Professor of Citizenship & Public Affairs in Tufts University’s Jonathan Tisch College of Citizenship and Public Service
- Andrew Ho, Professor of Education at the Harvard Graduate School of Education
Action Path is location-based survey platform for Android smartphones that crowdsources feedback from citizens in a way that fosters civic learning through reflective political practice. Existing platforms for civic engagement, whether online or offline, are inconvenient and disconnected from the source of issues they are meant to address. They require that citizens leave the places they normally inhabit physically or virtually and commit to a separate space and set of processes. Action Path is designed to answer the challenge: How do you address barriers to effective engagement in community projects, and ensure all citizens can have their voice heard on how to improve their local communities? It does so by converting individual actions into collective action and by providing context and a sense of efficacy, which may help citizens become more effective through regular practice and feedback.
Related Talks and Publications
- Graeff, E. 2014. ‘Crowdsourcing as Reflective Political Practice: Building a Location-based Tool for Civic Learning and Engagement.’ Presented at Internet, Politics, and Policy 2014: Crowdsourcing for Politics and Policy, Oxford Internet Institute, Oxford, UK, Sep 26.
- Graeff, E. 2014. ‘Action Path: a location-based tool for civic reflection and engagement.’ S.M. Thesis, Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
- Graeff, E. 2014. ‘Action Path: A Location-Based Tool for Civic Reflection and Engagement.’ To be presented at Place, (Dis)Place and Citizenship, Wayne State University, Detroit, MI, Mar 22.