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ONLINE YOUTH CIVIC ATTITUDES AND THE LIMITS OF CIVIC CONSUMERISM

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This paper examines young people's civic motivations in conjunction with their expected gratifications from, and evaluations of, civic websites. Fourty-six young people took part in this qualitative study, which included individual written evaluations as well as group reviews of the websites of four civic organisations (Fairtrade Foundation, Soil Association, Friends of the Earth, The Meatrix). The key finding of the study is that young people are willing to engage with civic websites as long as a series of ‘terms and conditions’ are met that would make that engagement meaningful to them, such as a link between the issue and the individual's lifeworld and the benefits of civic action. These conditions constitute a coherent paradigm of civic consumerism, although the evidence strongly suggests that this is due to a sense of civic loneliness and widespread scepticism about the relevance of collective action. Furthermore, the study highlights the importance of the emotional dimension of civic engagement, which recurred consistently in these young people's narratives. The implications and limitations of this paradigm of civic consumerism are examined, along with the ensuing challenge to the internet's democratic potential.
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Keywords: civic websites; consumerism; everyday life; non-governmental organisations; online mobilisation; youth engagement

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Media School, Bournemouth University, Weymouth House, Talbot Campus, Fern BarrowPoole,BH12 5BB, UK

Publication date: March 1, 2012

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