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Australian young people's participatory practices and internet use

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Abstract:

This paper examines the relationship between Internet use and political participation among Australian young people. Based on original survey data it demonstrates that there clearly exists a 'digital divide' amongst 18-34-year-old Australians, which is delineated on demographic characteristics of geography, education level, income level and occupational classification. While the Internet has far from replaced the traditional information sources of television and newspapers, it does, however, facilitate participation undertaken by already politically engaged young people. The Internet has fundamental importance in facilitating information sharing and organizing for young people involved in activist and community groups. The paper also provides case studies of two non-government, youth-oriented organizations with participatory Internet sites (Vibewire Youth Services and Inspire Foundation) to further explore the potential of Internet enhancement of young people's autonomous political spaces. One site provides Internet-only, youth-specific mental health services and has developed a portal for active community-based participation. It has won commendations for encouraging youth ownership of service provision and providing space for youth participation. The other site provides discussion and journalism for and by young people on a range of cultural, social and political issues. This site also engages in mainstream political issues through 'electiontracker', which provided four young people with the opportunity to join the mainstream media in following and reporting on the 2004 Australian federal election campaign. The focus in this paper on heterogenous acts of participation is able to expand our understanding of the democratizing potential of young people's Internet-based political practices.

Keywords: Australia; Internet use; Young people; community-based organizations; participation

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/13691180701193044

Affiliations: Government and International Relations, University of Sydney, Australia

Publication date: February 1, 2007

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