Undeniably, Wikipedia is a result of people’s collective effort across the world. Thanks to the participation of individuals and their time volunteering to create or edit articles, Wikipedia has become the world’s largest participatory achievement. Based on this, one would expect that the Wikipedia entry on civic engagement would be clear, extensive and detailed. On the contrary, overall the article is lacking a comprehensive framework of what participation is, how it is different from engagement, which type of participation is addressed, what does it mean for society, or analyzing in what forms it can be encountered.
Given I spent my summer researching on participation and now writing my thesis on the impact of civic and civil participation in decision making; this article was not a difficult choice for my Harvard Media, Politics and Power in the Digital Age class assignment to evaluate a Wikipedia entry. Editing this page as well as others related to participation via my Wikipedia User profile Socrates_27, using my research findings is top on my to-do list. This blog-post will explain why further editing is essential by going over the weak points of the selected entry.
Starting from the article’s title itself, it must be noted that “civic” participation usually refers to the involvement of citizens in government and governance issues, whereas “civil” is the correct term used for community participation. Civil or community participation consists of voluntarism, activism or participation of people to community activities, like a sports team. This distinction is not mentioned across the article and according to the provided examples it is not clear which of the two aspects this entry is referring to. Individual participation differs from civic or civil participation as it refers to the decisions individuals make in their own capacity ( i.e. recycle or vote) which are not effected as a result of collective action, thus the use of the term can be challenged.
Moreover, to give a better understanding of the (undefined) topic, the article is providing a list of activities in bullet points, but the exhibited examples are not necessarily classified under civic, civil or individual participation and even more so engagement. Lastly, the article cites an academic research template on civic engagement which is accurate but does not exactly flow from the previously illustrated aspects of the topic addressed. Therefore, it is safe to say the article generalizes and mixes participation forms under one subcategory (civic engagement) for which an accurate definition is missing, making the entry inconsistent and sometimes vague.
Given the fact there are innumerable academic articles on participation and its different forms, the article sourcing is poor and the scope of the selected sources is relatively narrow, or in some cases even irrelevant (i.e.” Ten commandments for changing the world”). Nevertheless, the references are published and reputable sources for the most part, but there is a definite need for additional support from broader literature solely on participation. Despite the lack of clarification, this entry does take a neutral stand point, but the absence of concrete sources and the poor topic analysis makes it hard to read as it can come across as confusing. The formating does not help the reader visualize how the provided participation examples blend together, since it does not attempt to classify them or link them to one another but rather just lists them in no particular order. The template used in the end, is somehow helpful, but the article could have definitely used some more graphs to provide a better understanding to the reader.
Another July evening in Switzerland…and though I should have been out enjoying the summer day by the lakes in St. Gallen, was in my apartment trying to accept it was 11 degrees of Celsius and rainy. Not much to do besides working on my participatory media research through Facebook, which admittedly can be a great source of entertainment!
Apparently, among others, Facebook had just launched a new notification feature about your friends marital status on the news feed column right on top of the birthday alerts.
While browsing the recent posts, I realized that one of my friends wrote on the wall of a newly wed girl and wished her for her birthday; which were in December. I was confused for a good 30 seconds and then it hit me: he did not interpret the little heart as a marriage indication but simplified it as a birthday reminder. Him being a good friend of mine, I felt I had to save his “Internet dignity” thus I sent him a PM saying that he should not wish happy birthday to a newly wed! Confident in his Facebook literacy, he confronted me saying: “Why do you say this? Is it unacceptable to wish happy birthday to a married woman? I thought you were more progressive than that!”
Few messages later, the confusion was resolved and the outdated post was immediately deleted.
Apparently, the digital divide is not only a matter between people in developing and developed countries or between digital immigrants and natives. The digital divide is evident even across people with the same demographics. Social Media competence and keeping up with the new Internet features is not everyones strongest skill, especially when taking into consideration the constant technological developments. Technological changes make the social media world more interesting but also more challenging to keep up with.
This entertaining example brings to light the true problems citizens face when it comes to on line participation initiatives or even when they just try to manage their own presence on line. Having access to the Internet does not mean that people have the knowledge to use the Internet applications properly or even if they do, they might lack the time to keep up with the software updates of existing applications already in use.
These technological changes should be addressed and approached on a governmental level as Internet literacy is key to citizen empowerment.