The decline of civic involvement has been well documented over the last 3 decades in Western societies. Problems in this area seem to be particularly concentrated among youth, who appear less cohesive and disengaged than earlier generations. Special attention has been drawn to information and communication technologies (ICTs) in order to understand the role they have been playing in this crisis. Although people can continuously access more and better tools for connecting people, this enhanced connectivity doesn't necessarily mean that people are increasing their sense of belonging to a community; it seems to be working —paradoxically— in the opposite direction. The openness of the networked space reinforces narrow group identities as archipelagos of disconnected islands, favoring atomized individualism.
Networking technology diminishes our sense of geographic distance. We feel closer to what seems to be more relevant and interesting to us although it could be on the other side of the world. As an exchange of this, we are less likely to engage in local relationships with our immediate surroundings. It has been argued that this cognitive distortion has made our local settings more irrelevant to us. This might explain —in part— why young adults and teenagers are much more disengaged than earlier generations.
Young people have also shown to be aggressive early adopters of new technology but more interestingly, they have been able to subvert or re-appropriate new products as means of being reflective of their own identity and culture. Engaging youth is important because they have traditionally played a key role in civic life (civil rights, anti-war movements, antinuclear and environmental movements, etc.) raising important issues and bringing new ideas into the public debate. In this sense, a key goal of this work is to impress upon young adults their inherent civic presence as active stakeholders of their communities.
This work explores design opportunities for taking advantage of the connective and associative power of communication technologies as strategies for injecting this power in local youth communities. This concept focuses on how, from a design perspective, ICTs can engender new forms of sociality that traverse onsite and online environments by providing youth a public voice in space.
This project is currently being developed for Chilean citizens.