YPP Network Description

The MacArthur Research Network on Youth and Participatory Politics (YPP) formed out of recognition that youth are critical to the future of democracy and that the digital age is introducing technological changes that are impacting how youth develop into informed, engaged, and effective actors.

Digital Activism, Global Dimensions
  • Project Description

    Digital Activism, Global Dimensions is a set of case studies designed to explore the dynamics of activism in the age of digital communications. Recognizing that much of the existing academic work on digital activism focuses on high development nations, the project will focus primarily on countries where internet penetration is below 50%, as per ITU statistics. Digital activism in these nations tends to involve mobile technologies as well as internet tools, often focuses on interactions between activists in country and in the diaspora and often combines online and offline media to reach wider audiences. By examining success and failure stories in close detail, we hope to understand ways in which civic engagement through digital media is similar to and different from online civic engagement in more connected nations, and to understand characteristics and trends that cut across particularities of nation and language to characterize the larger space of digital civic engagement. The project will use a method of coordinated self-reporting to collect information on projects around the world. Many successful digital activism projects involve one or more young academics, who often document their experiences with their projects as a way of sharing lessons learned. Project leaders will examine case studies of youth-led digital activism and develop a taxonomy of efforts previously undertaken and currently underway. Looking for examples that represent different aspects of the taxonomy (or which challenge the assumptions behind it), project leaders will invite organizers of projects recently completed and currently underway to document their experiences. By connecting organizers to one another and to a possible structure for understanding the dynamics of these projects, we will develop a set of case studies in dialog with one another, using – to whatever degree possible - common language, terminology and frameworks to understand the dynamics at work in digital activism.


    In the first phase of the project, we will research projects already documented in our target countries, and seek projects currently underway or already completed. In conjunction with these organizers, we will begin developing conceptual tools for understanding the space. In a second phase, we will invite young scholars involved with these projects to take on the responsibility of documenting their activist projects, with the goal of creating a chapter for an edited volume. We will organize a meeting to allow young scholars to meet, share ideas and document their work. In the final phase, we will work virtually to complete chapters for the book and release the text, including introductory essays that generalize across the specific project-based work to offer insights on the larger phenomenon of digital activism in less-connected countries.


    Possible participants in the project include:

    • Ory Okolloh or Juliana Rotich on Ushahidi (open software mapping project based in Kenya)
    • Gregory Asmolov on crowdsourced responses to Russian wildfires
    • Lova Rakotomalala on civic media and the Malagasy coup
    • Abiye Teklemariam Megenta on Facebook protests for political prisoner release in Ethiopia
    • Gaurav Mishra on vote reporting in Indian elections
    • Onnik Krikorian on digital media as a meeting space for populations separated by stalled conflict in Armenia and Azerbaijan