Changing Forms of Participation: Part 3

The youth are experiencing an environment of rapidly alternating ‘hyper-pessimism and radiant optimism’ regarding their use of digital technology and entertainment media as ways to participate in the modern political landscape (McQueen, 2008). Although young adults in Australia, and indeed, throughout the world, are feeling ignored and ‘see few intelligent political leaders who speak their language, represent their interests and are able to change things,’ (Keane, 2012), the modern forms of participation  to which they have turned to in order to engage with political discourse and participate in political processes, such as new media and politically themed websites, are branded collectively as ‘slacktivism’, notably by Evgeny Morozov, who sees digital activism as ineffectual and superficial, resulting in ‘cyber-utopianism’ (2011). 

Morozov’s argument is based on evidence that suggests sites and causes which rely on a digitally positivist point of view and faith in the motivation of online activists are ineffectual and based on utopian ideas of the potential of crowdsourcing and social media, as causes which are popularized by new media, particularly social media, can promote causes that are not verified, and not evidenced by real political problems. Indeed, digital petitions and Facebook likes are easy ways to indicate one’s support for a cause without having to commit much energy or any resources, but still be recognized as participating politically. However, this argument ignores the positive impacts of new media and its impact upon political participation, as without the diversification of tools and methods that prompt greater participation in the younger generations of the moment, Generation Y might remain mostly politically disengaged and their voices may remain unheard.

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