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Skip to 0 minutes and 6 seconds My name is Brian Loader and I am a political sociologist here at the University of York, and one of my main research interests is in young people, social media and how they may or may not use that to engage more in politics, and democratic politics in particular.

Skip to 0 minutes and 27 seconds Well we would use the term “young networking citizen”, and that is what we would mean by digital citizen. And in a sense what that would mean is that there is a very profound change in the way people see themselves as citizens. And in essence there is a movement from what we describe as dutiful citizens – so the kind of notion that it is

Skip to 0 minutes and 51 seconds your duty to vote: it’s your duty to join political parties and to engage. And by implication if you don’t do those things you are not being dutiful. What we find is young people are moving away from those values – not dispensing with them completely but they are moving away from them – and they are much more concerned about constructing their own notions of political identity. What is to be a citizen? Some people describe that as self actualising. What does that mean in practice, it means that they are actually less likely to join more formal organisations like trade unions or political parties. They are much more likely to network loosely and digital technologies facilitate just that kind of movement.

Skip to 1 minute and 39 seconds They tend to be, when you ask them,

Skip to 1 minute and 42 seconds much more project orientated or task orientated: so they get fed up with politicians talking; they just think that they just talk around the subjects but they don’t do anything. Your digital citizen is much more active; they are more individualistic; less ideological than they were in the past; and again these are defining characteristics. And as I say, all those kind of different types of norms and values and behaviour are facilitated – enabled – enormously by social media.

Skip to 2 minutes and 20 seconds So that raises a big profound question about politics moving to the digital sphere – the online sphere – and the relationship between the online sphere as a way of doing politics and understanding politics and sharing ideas about politics, and the offline political sphere, like voting for example; like campaigning. What’s the relationship between those two things? So, these are quite profound changes. It’s not saying that every young person is that particular ideal type – some may be more orientated that way than others – but we are saying that there are profound changes.

The network citizen

Political sociologist Brian Loader explores young people’s use of social media as a means (or not) of political engagement.

He considers shifting notions of civic duty and political identity. Young people seem to be moving away from the traditional collective politics of parties, and trade unions, and towards loose, individualistic networks facilitated by social media. But does this mean that we are becoming apolitical? Offer your views in the comments section below.

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This video is from the free online course:

Becoming a Digital Citizen: an Introduction to the Digital Society

University of York