Abstract submitted to
ECREA’s Political Communication Section Interim Conference
22-23 November 2017 in Zurich
Political Communication in Times of Crisis: New Challenges, Trends & Possibilities
IT University of Copenhagen
Young Danes and perceptions of information and political debate
The debates could be like, well, on Facebook. Or, it could be in kind of small groups. Like with one’s friends. I mean, if you talk things through, and you get a new view on things and they get a new view. Discussing things, that is a good idea.
(Anders, 19 years)
The profound changes in information and debate patterns and -practices, in particular for young citizens, are important. Societal reference points are increasingly missing and young people have started their own information and debate practices by using available digital media, while still including traditional media and f2f encounters in their information and debate repertoire. Changing practices affect perceptions of what information and informed citizenship is, and how informed citizenship translates into engagement, debate, and democratic participation. Hence, there are discrepancies between traditional normative perceptions of good information and democratic practices, and the changing patterns of young people’s preferred platforms for information and participation (Dahlgren, 2015; Thorson, 2014)
Denmark can be characterized as a digital society and the vast majority of the Danish population use digital media extensively, yet, we have not really experienced innovative perceptions of information and participation. These discrepancies appear to influence public discourses about young people as (un)informed citizens, about the information fatigued youth, the individualistic youth, and the understanding of social media as providers of fragmented and un-curated information (Cammaerts et al., 2014; Amnå and Ekman, 2014). The discourses seem to be reproduced in youth cultural contexts, despite numerous examples of youth engaging in and driving events, movements, single case causes, debate, and participation in formal democratic activities (Bennett, 2008; Dahlgren, 2009; Bastedo, 2014) expressed in the quote above.
However, is what we experience not simply a variation of young people’s ongoing challenge of societal, traditional norms and values and history repeated in relation to adult worry about the uninformed, disengaged youth and the future of society? No. I claim that radical changes of the foundations of information, debate, and participation, hence of democracy are taking place, to a large degree driven by the young generation and their embracing of social media in their media repertoire.
The paper draws on data from two representative surveys (December 2015 & December 2016) among Danes from 16 years and on social media and political engagement. The survey results are contextualized through qualitative data from interviews with 16-24 year old Danes, collected in the fall 2015 respectively 2016.