The Civic Web

From The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation Series on Digital Media and Learning

The Civic Web

Young People, the Internet, and Civic Participation

By Shakuntala Banaji and David Buckingham

An investigation of how governments, organizations, and groups use the Internet to promote civic and political engagement among young people.





An investigation of how governments, organizations, and groups use the Internet to promote civic and political engagement among young people.

There has been widespread concern in contemporary Western societies about declining engagement in civic life; people are less inclined to vote, to join political parties, to campaign for social causes, or to trust political processes. Young people in particular are frequently described as alienated or apathetic. Some have looked optimistically to new media—and particularly the Internet—as a means of revitalizing civic life and democracy. Governments, political parties, charities, NGOs, activists, religious and ethnic groups, and grassroots organizations have created a range of youth-oriented websites that encourage widely divergent forms of civic engagement and use varying degrees of interactivity. But are young people really apathetic and lacking in motivation? Does the Internet have the power to re-engage those disenchanted with politics and civic life?

Based on a major research project funded by the European Commission, this book attempts to understand the role of the Internet in promoting young people's participation. Examples are drawn from Hungary, the Netherlands, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Turkey, and the United Kingdom—countries offering contrasting political systems and cultural contexts. The book also addresses broader questions about the meaning of civic engagement, the nature of new forms of participation, and their implications for the future of civic life.


$35.00 X ISBN: 9780262019644 208 pp. | 7 in x 9 in 19 figures, 7 tables


  • This book is a timely reminder that we need to maintain critical engagement of young people's Internet use. Using multi-methods and the inclusion of young people's voices, the research shows the normalization of the Internet in everyday life. There is no longer a clear boundary between online and offline action. Pointing to the current limitations of online spaces for youth civic engagement, the book persuasively argues these can best be addressed by questioning how political systems foster engagement.

    Ariadne Vromen

    Associate Professor, Department of Government and International Relations, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, The University of Sydney

  • This is a brilliant book, offering a sharp and pertinent critique of the current debate on young people, technology, and participation. Banaji and Buckingham investigate the details of the complex relationship between politics and online activity, not only achieving their goal but also throwing in new questions that are crucial to the field.

    Cilia Willem

    Interactive Media Lab, University of Barcelona