‘All I know is that I know nothing’: (Some) Danish adolescents and democratic self-consciousness

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‘All I know is that I know nothing’: (Some) Danish adolescents and democratic self-consciousness
This paper focuses on questions about young Danes and their democratic self-consciousness related to their access to news through social media. Some adolescents find themselves lacking of information, insights, and influence, which again leads to negative democratic self-confidence. These adolescents often express negative awareness about getting a major proportion of their information through multiple fragmented sources such as social media. Additionally, especially Facebook is rarely used for opinion statements and debate, but is mainly an entrance platform for updates on social relations and for news from varying sources, determined by the algorithm.
In parallel to adolescents’ own experience, we see a prominent media discourse as well as research foci on “youth political apathy/fatigue” or the “ego-centered youth with a narrow individualistic focus on own interests”. It is not, however, reasonable to label a generation as uninterested in political debate as the data provide conflicting expressions of the opposite. The questions are not only if young people are motivated to seek information and to debate, but also if they have the opportunities to feel competent and included? Are traditional definitions of what political debate, participation and engaged citizenship discouraging for young citizens? Is distrust in social media as platforms for news and debate influenced more by normative values and less on actual opportunities and qualities? Finally, do discourses about the uninformed and individualistic adolescents potentially add to a lack of what I call democratic self-consciousness in the young citizens?
The paper is based on findings from two DECIDIS surveys (2015 and 2016) on Danes, social media, and political engagement, on two qualitative studies from 2016 on 18-20 year old Danes, social media, information, and perceptions of democracy, and on findings from a related study about first and second-time voters’ democratic awareness and self-consciousness in relation to elections in Denmark.
Original languageEnglish
Publication date10 Nov 2017
Publication statusPublished - 10 Nov 2017
EventECREA Symposium:
Digital Democracy
November 10-11 2017: Critical Perspectives in the Age of Big Data
- Södertörn University, Södertörn, Stockholm, Sweden
Duration: 10 Nov 201712 Nov 2017


ConferenceECREA Symposium:
Digital Democracy
November 10-11 2017
LocationSödertörn University
CitySödertörn, Stockholm
Internet address


  • Youth, digital self-consciousness, democracy, citizenship, information, participation


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