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Oct. 29, 2013, 5:06 a.m.
LINK: papers.ssrn.com  ➚   |   Posted by: Joshua Benton   |   October 29, 2013

That’s the title of a new research paper from our colleagues at the Berkman Center, and it’s just what it says on the tin. From the abstract:

As digital communication technologies have evolved over the past few decades, the convergence of network structure and accessibility with hardware and software advances has allowed individuals to interact in various, even contradictory, ways. They can explore, hide, reach out, evaluate, connect, negotiate, exchange, and coordinate to a greater degree than ever before. Furthermore, this has translated to an ever-increasing number of users interacting with information in unprecedented ways and, due to device portability, in totally new physical locations…

Just as the rapidly evolving landscape of connectivity and communications technology is transforming the individual’s experience of the social sphere, what it means to participate in civic life is also changing, both in how people do it and how it is measured. Civic engagement includes all the ways in which individuals attend to the concerns of public life, how one learns about and participates in all of the issues and contexts beyond one’s immediate private or intimate sphere. New technologies and corresponding social practices, from social media to mobile reporting, are providing different ways to record, share, and amplify that attentiveness…Rather than try to identify what civic media tools look like in the midst of such an array of possibilities (by focusing on in depth examples or case studies), going forward we will instead focus on how digital tools expand the context of civic life and motivations for engagement, and what participating in civic life looks like in a digital era.

We present this literature review as a means of exploring the intersection of theories of human behavior with the motivations for and benefits of engaging in civic life. We bring together literature from behavioral economics, sociology, psychology and communication studies to reveal how civic actors, institutions, and decision-making processes have been traditionally understood, and how emerging media tools and practices are forcing their reconsideration.

The coauthors areo Eric Gordon and Jessica Baldwin-Philippi of Emerson College and Martina Balestra at Cornell. We wrote about a previous Gordon project back in 2011.

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