DML2016 has ended
Back To Schedule
Thursday, October 6 • 11:00am - 12:30pm
Information, Imagination and Action: Entry points into participatory politics

Sign up or log in to save this to your schedule, view media, leave feedback and see who's attending!

2016 is an interesting moment to consider the role of media in public life. Deciphering the sea of competing messages, engaging in public discourse, and mobilizing people and resources--practices of participatory politics (Kahne, Middaugh & Allen, 2015; Soep, 2014) all require digital literacies--the ability to access information, and analyze, generate and reflect on online content (Hobbs, 2011).  

For urban youth, the urgency of participatory politics at a time of national conversations about immigration, economic inequality, and police brutality is clear. While some find their way to participatory politics through informal means--interest driven communities (Kahne, Lee & Feezell, 2013), for others, opportunities need to be cultivated. The considerable inequity defining Internet use, with higher income individuals more likely to produce media and lower income individuals to consume it (Schradie, 2011), reinforces this need. The tendency of under-resourced schools to use technology to practice basic skills may further exacerbate this divide (Gray, L., Thomas, N. & Lewis, L., 2010).

This panel considers three efforts to cultivate the skills and motivations for youth engagement in participatory politics and highlights three critical components of the process of moving towards empowered engagement. All take place in urban settings with constrained technology and educational resources. The first study examines digital civic literacy interventions in Oakland high schools. The second describes Youth Radio Interactive’s work engaging teams of youth to develop and launch civic apps. The final study introduces the importance of imagination as a critical link between literacy and action. Each project explores an entry point--literacy, imagination, action--into participatory politics.

The panel’s work challenges the notion that youth civic development follows a linear trajectory from literacy to action. These phases of digital civic engagement are both autonomous and speak to each other over time, contributing to the development of empowered civic identities. In each phase, the integration of digital media into learning environments produced common themes. First, we observe shifts in attitudes toward learning, with youth at each phase noting the importance of persistence. Second, these practices created opportunities for agency, with students at each phase noting a stronger sense of ownership and responsibility for their learning. Third, in each phase iteration was a critical component of effective practice, with educators often working within numerous constraints.

During the panel, the projects will highlight how each relates to the three key themes and will share key strategies for integrating education for participatory politics within the constraints of urban learning settings. The presentations will speak to the importance of providing these opportunities and share lessons for practice. A youth participant from Youth Radio Interactive will provide commentary on the benefits and challenges of such efforts.   

Discussant Nicole Mirra will lead a discussion of how these projects inform our understanding of promoting equity in participatory politics.  


1. ""The Impact of Small Scale Digital Literacy Interventions in Urban High School Classrooms”

2. “iImagine New Civic Realities: Building Digital Civic Imagination in Urban Classrooms”

3. ""Mobilizing Civic Media: Youth Making Apps to Make Change.

+ Youth Radio Interactive Intern (TBD)

avatar for NIcole Mirra

NIcole Mirra

Assistant Professor of Teacher Education, Rutgers University
Nicole is a proud former NYCUDL debate coach and English teacher who is now a teacher educator at Rutgers University. Her teaching and research focuses on the intersections between critical literacy and civic engagement in classroom, grassroots, and digital spaces. Debate has shaped... Read More →


Thursday October 6, 2016 11:00am - 12:30pm PDT
Emerald Bay A